Friday, December 13, 2013

Flannel Friday and it's Not The First Day of Winter

Winter?  Really?  

                                                                     Coffee and a Good Book's photo

Honestly, everyone knows I've been denying winter's arrival.  Very vocal here. I whine to stay in...while Piper whines to go out.  There's almost nothing better for my little lab than a snowy day!  And for me..this time of year...actually all the livelong year...there's nothing better than a book to read.  That illustration up top..could be me!   
As far as Piper and I are concerned, we've gone from Summer to Winter because again, I was in denial about Autumn.  Really.  Although we happily welcomed the Holiday Season into the Library with the amazing Connecticut Concert Ballet, I did not say "welcome to snow and cold."  Nope!  Didn't even whisper it!  

There's no denying Mother Nature now.  Snow is on the ground in Connecticut and more is headed our way.  So please stop by the library tomorrow, join me, and...

Photo: Here is December's READ poster. Download
Poster by Denise Fleming
available to download

The illustration is from Denise Fleming's latest release.  We're letting you know, right now - it's fabulous!  Piper and I will be taking this book over the meadow and through the woods for all of our winter outreach.  (I know the schools are close to the library - it just feels like over the meadow and through the woods when we travel in the snow!)  Piper and I need a Subaru!!  Heck, since we're dreaming...let's get heated seats too! 

I love this book right from the very cover and I will bravely tell you why...the kid's got color.  YES!  Thank you Denise Fleming for continuing to show us that kids come in every size, shape and color. My family comes in colors and I always need books that reflect diversity.  This cumulative tale takes us on a brightly colored adventure through the first 10 days of snowy blowy winter  One of the neat things about this book...if you're visiting a class on the 24th day of winter or the 45th day... the students will think of more things to keep the story going.  Read the book.  Just read it.  

Here's my favorite snowman flannel board from Piper's stash.  We posted it last January...but it's so "today."  

Since I have no original flannel for today...a second re-post!!  This one just makes me think of Denise Fleming's happy kids! 

Piper and I are linking you up to the Connecticut Library Consortium's List of great books to give as gifts all year long.  Here's the Young Children's list:

Or visit the home page for all three lists.  Download and print them out, they're set up to be a tri-fold. 

Thanks for visiting today.  We love comments.  Even on our bossy days!  Wait!  Just who's barking here?  No barking, no bossy, we're "edgey"!?  

P.S. (Piper Script)  Denise Fleming's new book whispers to all librarians..."I know there's a flannel board inside of me!" To learn more about the very talented Denise Fleming please visit her website

Friday, December 6, 2013

Oh Christmas Tree!

Oh Christmas Tree
How beautiful you are in flannel!

      So maybe this isn't the right verse for the song...but I love this little tree.  I saw it last year on Pinterest and knew I needed to make one.  While watching the gala surrounding the lighting of the tree on Rockefeller Plaza, (on the television...from the warm comfort of my cozy couch), I started drawing and cutting and singing - no dancing.  No dancing with scissors in your hands.  House rule.  Great rule.  And I made a tree, almost 3 feet tall!!  woo - hoo!  Or is it..woot! ?

 I made the tree with big sheets of stiffened green felt, (leftovers!) ...and the tree looks sort of stiff,  don't you think? Funny!   Next  year I'll go for graceful sweeping branches from a roll of  soft green felt and it will be magnificent.  This, mind you, is my starter tree!

Right now it's laying down on a foam (core) board.  I need to attach it to the board, to make it stand.  I think I'll do that with velcro.  I may want to attach it to the "fridge" with magnets later, or the flannel board - I'm thinking ...stay flexible!  Heck, I can move this tree from room to room!  How many people can say that about their holiday tree?

I have more sheets of the leftover green felt - I may have to make more trees...oh, a forest! No, no, not really doing that.  Sooo not doing that.  I am already thinking of sewing some sort of felt garland.  This is totally crazy!  Stop!  Be content.  Breathe.  Be calm and holiday on!  CALM.  

When I left work today I placed this tub on a colleague's desk to put out for our patrons tomorrow.  (I'm off tomorrow) We have a very tall tree in our library...maybe 15 feet.  Not a Christmas looks a bit like a giant avocado plant...but I know it's not. To honor Nelson Mandela,  we will place birds on our library tree for December and maybe January too.  We will pray for peace on earth - in our lifetime, or at least our children's lifetime.  Let us all fly free.

Here are a couple of birds ready to nest in the Peace Tree

P.S. (Piper Script): I can't wait to take those felt ornaments off and on and off and on.  We get a bit hyper here around the holidays.  Yes, "we".  xo

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

How to "holiday" at the Library!

The Nutcracker Ballet Packs the House!

Here's how to host a holiday ballet in your library.  Find a great local ballet company.  We work with the Connecticut Concert Ballet, (please click and look, absolutely beautiful!) Their pricing works for us and they are wonderfully professional - from management, design, creativity, dancers, talent, poise and personality!  We love them. 

 Contact your ballet company in the summer or earlier to secure the best date for November or December.  My advice is the beginning of December.  Family schedules get wildly crazy as December inches along.  Talk with the director of the dance company to be sure you have full costumed dancers coming.  Be clear that your library wants dances from the Nutcracker with all the beautiful music.  The Connecticut Concert Ballet brings a sound person and sound system.  Also make sure to review the space - the type of flooring in your program room and how much space the dancers need.  We arrange for a 45 minute program, (this is absolutely perfect for kids), followed by a fabulous  photo opportunity.  The dancers are amazingly gracious with their time and take photo after photo with the young audience.

Make tickets...yes, tickets! It's the ballet!  (note: be sure to know how much space the dancers need before you decide how many tickets.)  And announce when these FREE tickets will be available.  Advertise in all your usual ways.  Each person attending must have a ticket and I suggest that children be at least age 4.  (you know you'll get so many requests ..."my child is a very mature 3 yr old; may he/she attend?"  You'll need to decide this ahead of time.) And all children must come with an adult.  You'll get adults out "on their own" for the ballet even though this may be a "Children's" sponsored program.  It's wonderful!

Now our community room is tiny and very simple (as in PLAIN).  You may want to dress things up a bit.  I borrowed a Nutcracker from home.  

And some holiday flowers and displayed books everywhere!

We packed the house 5 minutes before the start of the show!
We handed out bells and sang Jingle Bells to welcome the Christmas Season

We sat back and enjoyed the show!

Now, what takes it way over the top for us and makes it all so memorable...the dancers along with one of their directors invite the children to join them and learn some ballet steps and then they all dance to the music.  Oh. My. Goodness.  These ballerinas are amazing!

The ballet dancers passed out candy canes and bookmarks to the audience
 and I requested a group pose.  Wow!

We had light refreshments and plenty of Christmas books ready to take home.  
And they took them!  This is the best way to start the holiday.

My thanks to Carol Waxman - the genius behind this in West Hartford.
This is a family favorite each year.    

P.S. (Piper Script) I love this beautiful Christmas angel.  Maybe I'll get wings and a tutu in my stocking!  Please leave a comment or a question...we love hearing from you.  xo

Friday, November 29, 2013

For the LOVE of BOOKS

Celebrate Picture Book Month with a PARTY
                                         ....or maybe a Wild Rumpus?

Oh yes we did! ... an evening to remember!   Our recipe for success included: a red carpet, fancy stanchions, shinny streamers..balloons! refreshments...glitz, glam, swag bags, stories, songs and picture books galore!  


November is Picture Book Month and the Caldecott Award is 75 years old, whoa!  This deserved a party.  Agreed?  Of course!  And we thought... fancy party, fancy dress, fancy pants, fancy fancy!  Check out this fancy, handsome young man...simply perfect

We set up a "Walk the Red" PRESS BOX for interviews and family was the best!   Everyone sat in the director's chairs.  Take a look!  Straight from the Faxon Library's BNN (Book News Network) where I had the microphone and they answered the questions....we have a charming mom and son...
talkin' books and monkeyin' around!

Knuffle Bunny and Sarah, (photo bombed by a monkey)

Oh my! A fancy-dressed princess in the press box with mom and dad!

Two of the evening's prize winners!  (watercolor paint sets)

...and, well, what can I say?  Hey hey we're the monkeys!

We set up the Library's Community Room with spotlights on the Caldecott Books.  We dimmed the overhead lights, turned on the music and our families walked that red carpet.  I must confess...I walked it like a runway...fancy me!!  My friend Isabella "walked the red" and announced,  "Mrs Breen, I love this party already!"  

Within minutes I realized that the parents and grand parents were excited to see Caldecott Award winning books from their youth.  This was incredible and it both surprised and delighted me.  A common thread, a common joy...these beautiful, beautiful books held meaning and memories for the children and THE ADULTS!  The adults loved revisiting their favorites.  WOW!  (and just saying...I don't think you'll ever get that feeling from a Kindle... like I said...just saying, absolutely no judgement here!)

Max and his Wild Things were front and center in our decorations for the evening.  Everyone recognized them and identified with the story in some way.  My thanks to the incredibly talented author/illustrator Maurice Sendak.   I had the honor of sharing the stage with him in 1988 reading books to children.  It was spectacular - but alas, I was so completely in awe...I could not manage to speak a single word to him! *sigh*


 Anyway, back to the help everyone settle into our event we provided a maker's table for designing and making pipe cleaner flower corsages, bracelets, crowns and hair jewelry! Once decked-out with personalized designer accessories we slowly organized into the story time area.  Here are two of the evening's beautiful young is stylin' a Disney designer gown, crown and cherry lollipop, and the other sweet heart is politely waiting for the story!

Before reading our book we just had to have a conversation on background information for the round gold medal on the book cover.  The author writes the you like to write? Raise your hand.  The illustrator does the drawing and painting and creating pictures for the book.  Ah, the work of the illustrator is as cool and as important as the author's words. And the illustrator wins this award!  "Please raise your hand if you like to draw and paint and make beautiful pictures" .   Hands went up...adults and children's hands stretched into the air with pride.  This is the best!  Twenty-six years in Children's Services and it's always a delight when the parents "buy into" the deal.  Yep - many of our parents like to draw and paint and make messes!   They raised their hands!  Good listeners!  Great audience!  Thank you for being the best role model for your children.  

We read Kitten's First Full Moon - written and illustrated by Kevin Henkes.  Oh what fun!  Everyone loves kittens!  And this one is really thirsty...but why, oh why is the bowl of milk in the sky?  Wait!  Milk in the sky?  That can't be...hmm.  No spoiler to be found on this blog - you'll need to read the book!  

But for now, just look at the expression on her little face.  Ut-oh!

The book is darling and silly and we learned that many of our families own it. (YAY!)

We did a cute flannel board game too.
Little Cat, Little Cat are you in THIS party hat? 
Just hide that kitty behind a hat and you have a suspenseful game with a giggling group!

Then we all stood up and did a freeze dance...we needed a stretch!  And more giggles!

                     And finally refreshments!  (inspired by books!)

Hollywood had the Rat Pack - and we had the SNACK PACK.
These happy children were outstanding...

 ...and beautiful.

Parents proudly talked about Caldecott books they read and remembered.  We had a couple of moms in the press box who recalled some very classic folk and fairy tales while growing up in other countries.  Again, to hear children and parents discuss their particular favorite book and books they love to share with each other just made my night.

I told the crowd early on that I hoped they would all go home with a Caldecott medal (aka borrow a book!)  - they did!!  As we wrapped up the evening we had a swag bag for each child - it's just what happens in the glamorous red carpet get a swag bag!  Honestly!   And on top of that...a touch of gold!  We had Little Golden Books, (donated) for each child - again, a home run!

Here's my friend Isabella bundled up to go home but FYI: she wore a golden dress!

 One of the party go-ers received her very first library card on this special night and I just have to say...Sofia...Girl On Fire!  You rocked it!!  And congratulations!

I am grateful to all who attended the Faxon Library Special "Walk the Caldecott Carpet" on Monday the 25th of November.  The love and joy you have for your children is contagious.  Reading, sharing and celebrating books with your little ones is PRICELESS. Just keep doing it.  And many thanks for letting me be a part of this journey. 
Read * Share * Celebrate


It's a wrap!  November has come to a close.  It was a pleasure to serve as an Ambassador for Children's Picture Book Month.  I am grateful for our community and their love of picture books.  We'll have to get together soon and talk books again.  Yes?

P.S. (Piper Script)  We're reading all of the Caldecott Award winning books from now til Christmas. You can too!  Pick them up at The Faxon Library in West Hartford, CT.  

Thursday, November 14, 2013

It's fall!  Time to get a wiggle on!

If I close my eyes I can hear my mother saying "get a wiggle on" or "don't dawdle" whenever she needed to encourage any one of her seven children or any of the grandchildren or great grands to pick up the pace!  My mom had a way with expressions.  Somewhere in the seventies she started greeting me each day with "morning sunshine" *sigh*  And I will forever love that she referred to my daughter as "Queenie"  Why Queenie?  I have no idea. 

I do know that she would have a number of things to say about my curling up on the couch and watching the television each evening.  And she would be a bit bothered, well more than a bit, about my pressing the snooze button on the alarm clock and snuggling under the covers for another ten minutes in the morning. Get a wiggle on indeed!  "Jane Ellen, is your work done?"  She lives in my heart and my memory and she usually keeps me on task.

My mom was English, and a Registered Nurse, mother of seven and she ran the household.  We were a disciplined lot, neat and trim and polite.  She fancied all four daughters with nursing degrees, (only one is a nurse) and she was light years ahead of her Rosary Society friends... she knew her sons would not be priests, (none are).  Thank the heavens!

Summer has slipped away.  Some time ago, actually.  Yet Piper and I are not willing to move forward.  We're stuck.  We could call it denial!  We set the clocks back, we've turned the heat on, we did all of the fall story times.  We outreached to plenty of new friends but it's dark outside and it's cold and we like the couch and the covers and all the NEW children's books.  Although Alice, (that would be my mom) would politely inform me to get off the sofa and go "out for a bit of fresh air".  In a home with seven children - that was mandatory unless it was 30 below!  "out you go"  "you need some pink in your cheeks" "keep an eye on your sister" don't be stalling, close the door, you don't live in a barn"  

Currently Piper and I are stubbornly refusing to go out and about.  The distant echo of Alice's words are just not strong enough this Fall.  We are curling up under comfy blankets reading everything we can get our hands on, or Piper's paws on!   The books are fabulous.  We are still going to the beach house on the weekends pretending it's summer and loving the sunsets while reading even more books.   This evening I took a photo of the books on the L.  If you follow this blog...the L is the other end of the L-shaped sofa where one of my "to read" piles lives.  Here's a nice neat photo:  

And here's what the rest of the house looks like!.  Heaven forbid Alice ever saw my messes!  

And on the coffee table

And these have found their way into the bedroom.  Piper wants me to read them to her!

We're very comfy on the couch and the bed with the books.  We're reading for submissions to our Connecticut Library gift giving list which our state librarians pull together annually.  We're reading for the library's 2014 summer reading list, and I am reading new picture books in order to feature a book each day in November because it is Children's Picture Book Month!  Yay! And we're Ambassadors!  


Here are a couple of cute photos from our library kids, big and little and some of their favorite picture books:


Alrighty now, Piper is tugging me off to bed, "get a wiggle on" to read the book at the top of this post...but I bet you already guessed that.  If You Give A Dog A Donut.  Ut-oh, this could present a problem tomorrow morning.  Or maybe I'll just say "out you go, Piper" with a little bit of Alice in my voice.  God Bless and good night!

P.S. (Piper Script) Alice loved dogs!