World Travelers: The Netherlands

World Travelers: The Netherlands
Grades K-5

My goal with this series is to bridge cultural gaps in children's literacy. The best part about it is that I learn a lot about the countries in the process, and even the parents get involved with asking questions. Sometimes I bring in a special guest or two that has lived or visited that specific country and they tell about their experiences and share items from there. The more this program develops, the better it gets!

I started by creating passports that look a little something like this:
I created a template to save ink, then filled in the space with the airplane and the quote with stamps. The inside pages are from this template, and each time a child comes to the program, they get a special stamp on the inside. I try to choose stamps that have to do with the specific location, so the Netherlands was a tulip. If they "travel" to so many of the locations, they get a prize!

When they come in, I always have a playlist of that country's traditional music playing. This month, I chose one that was already made HERE. Usually I'll create one myself, but this one seemed to work fine.

I often use the fireplace to mount my central information. At the time, I didn't have a world map to show where the Netherlands are in relation to us, but that issue has since been fixed! I also include the country's map with the capital, their country flag, and some main facts.
I started by asking a few questions to see what the kids already knew. One kid knew that they wear wooden shoes, and that was about it. May it be noted that his mother had visited Amsterdam prior to this program. Case in point, this is exactly why I'm doing this!

Each child received a page of questions and had to find the answers hidden around the room:
1. Rotterdam is one of the busiest what?

2. What is the seat of the International Court of Justice?

3. What 2 projects were created to protect the Netherlands from flooding?

4. What day is the opening of parliament?

5. What is the name of the historic castle where the Royal Family resides and dates from the 12th century?

6. What is the densely populated western area of the Netherlands called?

7. What is the capital of the Netherlands?

8. Name 3 painters from the Netherlands.

9. Where is the Anne Frank house located?

10. What is the official currency of the Netherlands?

Each station has a description of the history and uniqueness of the specific craft they are making. I also provide examples as well!

Delft Blue Pottery
This was pretty simple. I just grabbed all the blue markers I could find and put some paper plates down. That's all you need!

Origami Tulips
A lot of kids ended up taking the paper and making random origami after they made their tulips. Which is cool, but make sure you don't put all of your origami paper out!

Piet Mondrian Art
This, along with the Delft Blue Pottery, was more open ended. I organized the crayons by color and the kids could emulate Mondrian's art in their own design. The only colors you need are black, red, blue, and yellow. This is a great project to help kids with primary colors and geometric shapes.

RECEPTION: I received great feedback from this program! I also made a suggestion box so people could tell me what they wanted to get out of it. I had several parents say they wanted to come back and they loved the idea of the passports. There were also a lot of great projects!

Check out my list of books related to the Netherlands HERE.

See my Netherlands themed Pinterest board HERE.


Storytime: Rainforest

Ages 0-6

Where Am I? by Moira Butterfield
The Salamander Room by Anne Mazer
The Umbrella by Jan Brett
The Great Kapok Tree by Lynne Cherry

Lately we've been delving into the crevices of the children's department storage spaces to find any lost treasures that may have been forgotten. One of them is a collection of children's songs printed out and laminated to use during storytimes. We've been working on putting together a flip board by cutting out some cardboard, punching holes in the tops, and connecting them with rings. We're actually creating two boards because we have so many of these, but once we are finished with the second board I'll be making a CD with correlating music to accompany. For this particular storytime I  chose to start with The Grand Old Duke of York...because...why not?

BOOK Where Am I? by Moira Butterfield
BOOK The Salamander Room by Anne Mazer
Up to the Ceiling
Up to the ceiling, (stretch both arms overhead)
Down so you’re small. (bend at waist and touch floor)
Right to the bookshelf (stretch arm to right)
Left to the wall. (stretch arm to left)
Right hand, left hand,
Turn them around. (spin hands around each other, 'wheels on the bus style')
Fold them together
And now sit down

BOOK The Umbrella by Jan Brett (Interactive)
BOOK The Great Kapok Tree by Lynne Cherry 
I got this idea from From the Hive. I printed off the animals from Jan Brett's website. I laminated them and cut them out, then cut out some felt to look like leaves. I then sewed the pieces together to create the "umbrella." I didn't really like the handle made of felt, so I took a long roll of industrial paper towl and twisted it together. Then I curved the end to create the handle. It made it more sturdy and multi-dimensional:

I handed each child a different animal, and when I read the story and their animal got into the umbrella, they came up and put their animal in the umbrella on the board, too (well...they tried):

Clothes Pin Frog
How cool is this?? You can find the printable at Therapy Fun Zone. This is a great craft because it helps with finger strength. It's also fast and easy to make.

4 Foot Puzzle
This puzzle is always out with our Racing to Read toys, but it seems to intimidate people. I felt that it fit into the theme enough that I'd incorporate it, so I started the puzzle by connecting all the top pieces, and then let the kids finish it.

The Umbrella Coloring Mural via Jan Brett
This mural as a whole is pretty awesome, but I just needed a passive station without overdoing it too much, so I cut out some pieces to make a tree and set some crayons with it. We ended up leaving this one out for a while.

RECEPTION: This was such a fun storytime! The kids loved finding the blue butterfly on every page of Where Am I? The parents also enjoyed learning about animals they didn't know about during The Umbrella and there were some great questions to ask during The Salamander Room and The Great Kapok Tree. I felt like it was educational and interactive, and the kids kept on task pretty well. The frog craft was also a hit!

See my Rainforest/Jungle Themed Storytime Pinterest board HERE.


Review: Saint Anything by Sarah Dessen

Title: Saint Anything
Author: Sarah Dessen
Publication Date: May 5th, 2015
Publisher: Viking Juvenile
Genre: Young Adult, Realistic Fiction
Pages: 417 
ISBN: 0451474708
Source: Borrowed from the Library

Synopsis (from Goodreads):
Peyton, Sydney's charismatic older brother, has always been the star of the family, receiving the lion's share of their parents' attention and—lately—concern. When Peyton's increasingly reckless behavior culminates in an accident, a drunk driving conviction, and a jail sentence, Sydney is cast adrift, searching for her place in the family and the world. When everyone else is so worried about Peyton, is she the only one concerned about the victim of the accident?

Enter the Chathams, a warm, chaotic family who run a pizza parlor, play bluegrass on weekends, and pitch in to care for their mother, who has multiple sclerosis. Here Sydney experiences unquestioning acceptance. And here she meets Mac, gentle, watchful, and protective, who makes Sydney feel seen, really seen, for the first time.

The uber-popular Sarah Dessen explores her signature themes of family, self-discovery, and change in her twelfth novel, sure to delight her legions of fans. 

Sarah Dessen is the author of ten previous novels for young adults, among them the New York Times bestsellers What Happened to Goodbye, Along for the Ride, Lock and Key, Just Listen, The Truth about Forever, and This Lullaby. Her first two novels, That Summer, and Someone Like You were the basis for the movie How to Deal, starring Mandy Moore.

Sarah Dessen is a graduate of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, with highest honors in creative writing. She is the recipient of numerous awards and honors. Ms. Dessen lives in Chapel Hill with her husband, Jay, and their daughter, Sasha Clementine.

This was a good book to kick off the Summer. The protagonist, Sydney, has always lived in her extremist brother's shadow. When he is put it jail for hitting a kid while drunk driving, Sydney loses all sense of identity in the eyes of her family. After switching schools for a "change" in environment, she meets the Chatham family who are polar to the dynamic that she is accustomed to. The reader experiences with Sydney the changing world around her as she tries to find her place outside of who her brother is.

Saint Anything is the first book I've read of Sarah Dessen's. Many people have said that this is darker than her other novels, but don't let this sway you. It really isn't that dark at all. I'm not sure I would even call it that. It just deals with a couple drug-related issues but barely even scratches the surface of them or their effects. Oh, there's a pretty creepy dude and some situations that make you fear for Sydney's safety, but Dessen really doesn't go into much detail about anything.

There is a little romance, but not like her other books. It's more of a side plot, and nothing too crazy happens. It was nice reading a book that dealt with every day life, but was still very clean. No sex, minimal swearing, and I don't think she dropped any names of drugs or anything. Saint Anything is the perfect amount of reality without becoming too heavy or difficult to read.

My only complaint is that I caught 5+ spelling errors in the book. For being a product of Viking, I was really surprised. And perhaps they've corrected them since then, I mean, I received the very first copy that arrived at the library, but one of my pet peeves is seeing typos in a book by a popular author.

It was a light character-driven chick lit that would be perfect for enjoying while sitting by the pool. If you're looking for a good summer read that deals with more substance than your every day love triangle, definitely pick up this book.


Author Interview: Carole P. Roman - Cultural Children's Author

Carole P. Roman is a notable author to add to your storytime collection. She writes about pirates, frogs, yoga, and my personal favorite, culture. For an assignment at school, I had to develop a proposal for something within my chosen career that I was passionate about. The American Library Association put out an article from the School Library Media Research journal about bridging cultural gaps in children's literacy. In a nutshell, it suggests that kids are less likely to become strong readers if they can't relate to what they are reading (authors, characters, content, etc.). In 1985, the Cooperative Children's Book Center began documenting such information, and it looks a lot like this (the following chart is one I created for my project):

Roman noticed something else about the world around her. We are constantly surrounded by culture outside our own, but we don't understand how it relates to us. This epiphany inspired her to write the "If You Were Me and Lived In..." books. I love these books because they simplify cultures not just for children, but for adults, too! They are short enough for storytimes, and they allow children of different cultures to relate to what they're reading, while also educating their peers. I believe these books are the beginning of a new era in children's literature, and I hope we continue to see this gap diminish.

During research for my project, I had the opportunity to call Miss Roman and learn more about her aspirations via phone interview. The passion she has for reaching a generation of children and educating them to understand the world around them was evident in her voice. It was incredibly moving for me to hear her story and how she came to act upon her convictions to write about what she felt the world was missing. It inspired me to start a program at the library called "World Travelers" where I aim to educate children about different countries and their cultures.

Please welcome Carole P. Roman to The Indigo Quill with me, and be sure to check out her books for your collection!
Named to Kirkus Reviews' Best of 2012 for her first book, award winning author Carole P. Roman started writing as a dare from one of her sons. Using an imaginary game she played with her grandson as a base, Captain No Beard was born. It has followed with four more books to the series.

Motivated by her love of yoga, Roman has written a book that not only teaches four poses, but shows how easy and accessible yoga can be.
She has just finished the first of six books in a groundbreaking new nonfiction series about culture around the world. "If You Were Me and Lived in..." combines her teaching past with her love of exploration and interest in the world around us.

Writing for children has opened up a whole second act for her. While she is still working in her family business, this has enabled her to share her sense of humor as well as love for history and culture with the audience she adores. Roman lives on Long Island with her husband and near her children.

What inspired you to write multicultural books for children?
I’ve always been interested in different cultures. I have a multicultural background and I was a Social Studies teacher—I graduated as a History major and taught Jr High for a while before I and quit. 

One night, I just thought I should write about what I know. Alexander (my grandson) was in Vegas with me and didn’t understand the concept of different countries. So the first multicultural book I wrote was If You Were Me and Lived in Mexico… (because I lived closest to there).

I asked myself, what is culture and what does it mean? Alex was exposed to cultures but didn’t understand them. He’d ask what the eiffel tower was, and even after telling him, he still did not understand what it was and why it was relevant to him.

What elements do you ensure are included in your multicultural books?
I ask myself questions about what the child should know, such as…
  1. what would you call your parents?
  2. what could your name be?
  3. what a doll would be called?
  4. what would you call school?
I tackle things kids would read and make them understand why it’s diverse.

Where do you find your inspiration for which country you’ll write about next?
Restaurants…I write about what country the places I go inspire. Everywhere I go I notice I’m surrounded by these cultures. Korea, Greece, Kenya, Hungary…etc. We are surrounded by culture in everything we do!

How do the kids respond to learning about different cultures?
Kids are delicious and wonderful, and they love it!  They like to talk about themselves…so if they have some kind of relation or story with it they get excited.

I printed out post cards and would have them write about what they would know or do if they wanted to go there.

What do you hope your books achieve?
I feel the books are really important for tolerance. They give knowledge….the goal is to give children information and not hatred.

When I was a substitute teacher I had my class write down their Thanksgiving menu. The menu always had turkey, mashed potatoes, and pie. But there was always an ethnic dish. These kids are already experiencing culture and they don’t even realize it.

What is one thing you want readers to take away from reading your books?
The most important lesson that comes out of my books is that the world is very large, but  yet it is very small, and we are so connected. If we don’t learn to appreciate the differences and embrace them then the world is not going to be a safe place for our children. There is no better than the other, they are all beautiful! 

Each book has been a labor of love. 


Books in Bloom Literary Festival 2015

It was another great year at the Books in Bloom Literary Festival hosted by the Carroll and Madison Library System! One of my favorite things about this festival is that it takes place in Eureka Springs, AR, so it's a much less populated event than most book signings. With authors this year like Pete the Cat author and illustrator James Dean, Rizzoli & Isles author Tess Gerritsen, and NPR's Roy Blount, Jr., it's almost unbelievable how quaint and private this festival is. You can read about my experience at last year's event here.


Kathryn Andries                                         William Bernhardt
Roy Blount, Jr.                                              Margaret Bolsterli
Abby Burnett                                       Robert Cochran & Suzanne McCray 
Jean Davidson & Jon Davidson                                       Steve Yates
James & Kimberly Dean                                              Tess Gerritsen
Nancy Hartney                                                        Amy Lillard
Sarah E. White                                              Amanda Eyre Ward

I arrived just in time to hear James Dean speak about the popularity of Pete the Cat and what it's like to become a children's author/illustrator. I think my favorite part was when he was asked if he knew what made Pete so popular, and his humble response was, "I honestly have no idea why kids love Pete the Cat so much!" Meeting him and his wife, Kimberly, was the highlight of my trip. They were so down to earth and personable, I would've loved to sit with them and chat for a while!

My next victim (pun intended) was Rizzoli & Isles' Tess Gerritsen. If you've ever read these books or seen the show, you know the writing is top notch. Be sure to check out her newest title, Die Again, where Gerritsen shakes things up with our favorite polar personalities, who step out of Boston and land on exotic soil. 

It was definitely another amazingly successful year at the Books in Bloom Literary Festival! I met a lot of incredible authors and snagged myself a fresh pile of signed titles to add to my summer TBR stacks. 

If you are in the area during the Spring, try to make a trip out to this event. It's definitely worth it, plus you can enjoy the rest of your afternoon wandering around the romantic town of Eureka Springs!