RovingFiddlehead KidLit

Ben Franklin’s Big Splash #nfpb15

April 1, 2015

Ben Franklin's Big Splash

Ben Franklin’s Swim Paddles

Ben Franklin’s zest for life and self-assurance shine through in Ben Franklin’s Big Splash: The Mostly True Story of his First Invention by Barb Rosenstock. Not restricting himself to the way things were always done, Franklin learned to swim (rare in colonial America) and then started pondering ways to swim faster and easier. While only a letter written fifty years after the fact describes eleven-year-old Franklin’s swimming paddles, there is ample information about the rest of Franklin’s life and inventions for Rosenstock to write a literary biography filled with historical detail. S.D. Schindler’s illustration capture both colonial life as we know it and imagined iterations of the swim paddles.

“Not Satisfied”

Curiosity, perseverance and self-confidence, qualities important for any inventor are evident throughout. Franklin did not fail, but rather he “was not satisfied” with his swim paddles.

“Most kids might have felt sad, ashamed or stupid. Instead, this smart, stubborn, sensible son of a soap-maker simply thought he’d made a mistake — and wouldn’t stop seeking, studying, and struggling until he SUCCEEDED.”

Slip, slosh, squirt, spurt, spout

This book’s strength is that Rosenstock has great fun delivering the message that Ben Franklin enjoyed himself and learned while making mistakes. Words beginning with the letter S predominate the text. Typography emphasizes Rosenstock’s wordplay with bold S-verbs. Cumulative tale techniques highlight the trial and error method central to invention and scientific discovery.

As a delightful nonfiction read-aloud, Ben Franklin’s Big Splash stands out among historical biographies.

Nonfiction Picture Book Challenge

For this week’s nonfiction picture book challenge roundup, visit Alyson Beecher‘s blog, KidLit Frenzy.


Flannel Friday: French Rhyme Petit Poisson

March 20, 2015

Petit Poisson

This cute red fish was made by the dynamic duo, Jackie and Mathieu, that I worked with to do French storytimes. It goes with the following Petit Poisson (Little Fish) rhyme. Craft sticks are perfect since the fish are going in circles. They brought stick puppets for the children as well.

Petit poisson qui tourne en rond,
Petit poisson dis-moi ton nom.
Petit poisson qui bouge,
Petit poisson tout rouge,
Petit poisson dis-moi ton nom.

Rough translation:
Little fish who swims in circles
Little fish tell me your name
Little fish who moves
Little fish who is red
Little fish tell me your name

The rhyme comes from Un Deux Trois: First French Rhymes selected by Opal Dunn and illustrated by Patrice Aggs. Helpfully for us non-native French speakers, the book comes with a CD as well so you can play the rhymes if you need help with pronounciation.

Finding Flannel Friday

This week’s host is Kathryn at Fun with Friends at Storytime. You can also find past and future roundups and lots more information about Flannel Friday at the Flannel Friday website. For a visual round-up of all postings, check out Flannel Friday on Pinterest.

Flannel Friday: St. Patrick’s Day

March 13, 2015

For a St. Patrick’s Day flannelboard, I took inspiration from leprechaun tales and Rainbow Stew. When the Vikings raids were upon Ireland, the leprechauns hid the fairy gold and even today, guard it jealously. Supposedly it can be found in a pot of gold at the end of a rainbow. In an add-on to Rainbow Stew, my leprechauns transform fruit and vegetables into gold.

Begin with a selection of rainbow-colored fruits and vegetables.

Take an apple, put in the pot
Stir it, stir it, stir it a lot.
Take it out, what will it be?
The prettiest red you ever did see?

Stirring Rainbow Stew
Continue with orange, yellow, green, blue and violet fruits or vegetables and rainbow pieces.

Rainbow Stew Food

When the rainbow is complete, it is time for the leprechaun to dance and do his magic.

Where the rainbow ends, do a little jig.
Grab a shovel and dig, dig, dig.
Pull out the treasure, what will it be?
The fairies’ gold for all to see.


Find­ing Flan­nel Friday

This week’s host is Laura at Library Lalaland. You can also find past and future roundups and lots more information about Flannel Friday at the Flannel Friday website. For a visual round-up of all postings, check out Flannel Friday on Pinterest.

Goldie Takes a Stand #nfpb15

March 4, 2015

Goldie Takes a Stand

“I knew just what to do and naturally – I’d be president!”

Goldie Takes a Stand: Golda Meir’s First Crusade written by Barbara Krasner and illustrated by Kelsey Garrity-Riley fills a gap in childhood biographies of political leaders.  There is no shortage of the biographies of the childhood adventures of male presidents and prime ministers foreshadowing their great deeds. It is nice to see an equally charming childhod biography of a woman leader.

Growing up in Milwaukee in the early 1900s, Goldie Mabowehz began her long political journey when she gathered her sister, friends and classmates to form the American Young Sisters Society. The organization had a philanthropic purpose (to raise money for textbooks for poor classmates), but also provided an opportunity for Goldie to lead – a role she relished. Her capers to raise money (including overcharging customers at her parents’ store) offer a window into formative experiences of one of the first female prime ministers in the world (Golda Meir for Israel, 1969-1974). Her take-charge attitude and self-assurance served her well as a nine-year-old and for years to come. This picture-book biography emphasizing teamwork, perseverance and philanthropy by a group of girls is a great title for Women’s History Month.

For more Women’s History Month biography suggestions see:

Amelia Bloomer Project

Crystal’s Goodreads list

A Mighty Girl picture book suggestions

For this week’s nonfiction picture book challenge roundup, visit KidLit Frenzy.




Gingerbread for Liberty #nfpb15

February 25, 2015

gingerbread for liberty

Gingerbread for Liberty: How a German Baker Helped Win the American Revolution by Mara Rockliff with illustrations by Vincent X. Kirsch is the delightful story of Christopher Ludwick. Appreciative of the freedom and comfort life in America brought him, the aging and overweight baker was determined to do his part when the Revolutionary War began. His contributions to feeding the American soldiers (at his own expense) and converting some Hessian mercenaries to their side were indeed significant. The illustrations, all done in the style of elaborate German gingerbread, perfectly complement the text. And Ludwick’s large belly is a delight! A gingerbread recipe is aptly included on the endpapers.

The story is entertaining and the baker endearing, but I fear many children will not realize they have been reading about an actual person and actual events. Ludwick is not even named until the author’s note! It is a shame that the readers who skip the Author’s Note will not realize the depth of his contributions and may even believe the brave and cheerful baker to be a fictitious character.

For more nonfiction picture book recommendations, visit the weekly round-up at KidLit Frenzy.



Animal Movement Storytime

February 23, 2015

In the midst of freezing temperatures, animal movement storytime, with lots of swinging, shaking, stomping and hopping throughout, is a fun antidote to being cooped up indoors.

animal movement books
Book: Dancing Feet by Lindsay Craig

Action Song: The Animal Boogie by Debbie Harter – love this song! So catchy and the kids really get into it.

Action Rhyme:
I can take giant moose steps    (step in place)
I can take tiny mouse steps     (tiptoe in place)
I can take quick, quick bunny hops   (hop in place)
I can sit still, as still as a rock. (sit down)

Book: Babies on the Go by Linda Ashman – a quieter, more reflective picture book than the others here


Fingerplay/Flannelboard: Five Little Monkeys Jumping on the Bed

Book: Jump by Scott Fischer. Love this story of the confident, dare I say cocky, animals jumping to safety.

Action Rhyme: Five little pigs
Five little pigs rolled in the mud –
Squishy, squashy, felt so good.
The farmer took one piggy out.
“Oink, Oink, oink,” the pig did shout!

Count down until…

No little pigs rolled in the mud.
They all looked so clean and good.
The farmer turned his back and then,
Those pigs rolled in the mud again.

I used Melissa’s adorable muddy pigs with this one.

clean and dirty pigs

Who Hops? by Katie Davis. A basic silly book in which elephants slither and giraffes crawl. Or do they? This one closes on a note encouraging kids to be active, a fitting

Additonal book suggestions:
Can You Move like an Elephant? by Judy Hindley, illustrated by Manya Stojic
Do Donkeys Dance? by Melanie Walsh
This is the Way by Charles Fuge
You are a Lion and Other Fun Yoga Poses by Tae-Eun Yoo

A sampling from You are a Lion:

Squat on your feet
Hands on the ground
Hop up!
You are a … (turn page)

Ribbit your song
Leap in the pond
All the day long

Weeds Find a Way #nfpb15

February 11, 2015

weeds find a way

Weeds find a way to live where other plants grow,
send their seeds into the world in wondrous ways…
find a way to wait…
find a way to be loved…

There is wonder and beauty to be found in all of nature. Weeds Find a Way by Cynthia Jensen-Elliott and illustrated by Carolyn Fisher gives weeds the prominence, strength and beauty normally reserved for flowers, trees and food plants.With bold illustrations and large text, weeds take center stage in this engaging picture book. Children play amongst the weeds throughout as weeds grow in the cracks of a hopscotch game, the sole of an old shoe and, of course, dandelion seeds are blown into the wind.

In the closing profiles for the 28 weeds mentioned and/or illustrated throughout the book, children will delight in the often amusing names such as cheeseweed, stinkweed, and ox-eye daisy. Back matter provides context for when and why weeds are problematic. While Weeds Find a Way is a celebration of their perseverance and adaptation, the back matter makes clear that all is not sweetness and light in the realm of weeds.

For more nonfiction picture book recommendations, visit the weekly round-up at KidLit Frenzy.


PB & J Hooray #nfpb15

February 4, 2015

PB & J Hooray

PB & J Hooray written by Janet Nolan and illustrated by Julia Patton is a fun and effective picture book answering the question “where does your food come from?”

Nolan tells a cumulative story beginning with a boy making himself a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. With short rhythmic, but informative explanations and illustrations, the trail goes from the kitchen to the grocery store, delivery truck, bakeries and factories, farmers’ fields and seeds. At last, with all the pieces of the puzzle in place, several friends join the boy and “it’s finally time to say PB & J Hooray!”

Interesting tidbit: Julia Patton’s illustration process began with eating her first peanut butter and jelly sandwich!

For more nonfiction picture book recommendations (including lots of ALA Youth Media Awards coverage this week), visit the weekly round-up at KidLit Frenzy.


Flannel Friday JavaScript: Little Mouse

January 30, 2015

Little Mouse

I’m contributing a distinctly non-flannel Flannel Friday: an online interactive version of Little Mouse, the popular storytime game, using JavaScript.

Thanks to my eldest for his help and Trent Richardson for his jQuery Impromptu extension.

The code is available on Github. Pull requests that improve and extend the code are most welcome!

Mouse icon made by Freepik from, licensed by CC BY 3.0

JavaScript Version

Flannelboard Version

I posted the traditional flannelboard version here way back in 2011.

Find­ing Flan­nel Friday

This week’s Flan­nel Fri­day host is Storytime Katie.

You can also find past and future roundups and lots more infor­ma­tion about Flan­nel Fri­day at the Flan­nel Fri­day web­site. For a visual round-up of all post­ings, check out Flan­nel Fri­day on Pin­ter­est.

And to all the lucky Flanney Friday-ers meeting at ALA this weekend, have a blast!

Separate is Never Equal

January 28, 2015

Separate is Never Equal
Separate is Never Equal: Sylvia Mendez and Her Family’s Fight for Desegregation by Duncan Tonatiuh details the struggle Sylvia Mendez’ parents undertook to ensure that she and her siblings were able to attend the public school closest to their house, a school that was not only closer than the “Mexican school”, but also provided a superior education.

While the superintendent would only vaguely tell Gonzalo Mendez that his children couldn’t attend Westminster School because “that is how it is done” the court case revealed the depth of his prejudice. Without speaking to the students he assured the court that 75% of the Mexican students had poor hygiene and were academically inferior. Such blatant prejudices, particularly the claim that they all spoke poor English, were easily dispelled by student testimony.

Governor Earl Warren desegregated all California schools in 1947, opening the schoolhouse doors for not only Sylvia Mendez and Mexican children, but children from all racial and ethnic backgrounds. He also laid the groundwork for 1954, when as Supreme Court Justice he would rule on behalf of African-American students in Brown vs The Board of Education. Tonatiuh’s book was an eye-opener for me. I had not realized that segregation for the children of Mexican immigrants was codified until reading Separate is Never Equal.

Strong back matter accompanies this solid title of overcoming prejudice and changing American schools.

Related Resources:
Sylvia Mendez today
Story Corps: Syvlia Mendez talks to her younger sister about the case
Voices of History video


For more nonfiction picture book suggestions, visit the roundup on KidLit Frenzy.