Tales of an Elementary School Librarian

#ukulelesongFriday If You’re Happy and You Know It

sad.jpgI’ve been wanting to do more of these ukulele song posts, but the fact is, I’ve already gone through most of the songs that I play for my students on a regular basis. I just remembered this one that I haven’t done , so today, at least, there will be a #ukulelesongFriday! Let’s get to it!

It’s a simple one that just about every kid knows, so you don’t have to introduce it or go over the motions before the song. You just pick up your uke and start playing (at least that’s what I do.)  It’s a sit down on the carpet song, great for those days when the group is a bit wild, and you can tell that a stand up/dance around song is going to lead to a black eye or a head injury.

Here are the chords:

                         F                                                      C    
If you’re  happy and you   know it clap your hands (clap clap)
                          C                                                           F
If you’re happy and you   know it clap your hands (clap clap)
If you’re  happy and you know it
and you  really want to show it
                     C                                                             F
If you’re happy and you  know it clap your hands (clap clap)

I play this through four times. The first time we clap, then it’s stomp your feet, then it’s shout “hooray! and finally we do all three. (Clap, clap, stomp, stomp, hooray!) I usually stop before the last one and ask the kids to remind me of the three things we did.

That’s it! Here’s a quick clip of me playing the song.

PS. If you’re like me and have some trouble with Bb, (it depends on how limber my fingers are on a particular day) you can play it in G.

                         G                                                     D   
If you’re  happy and you know it clap your hands (clap clap)
                       D                                                          G
If you’re   happy and you know it clap your hands (clap clap)
If you’re  happy and you   know it
and you  really want to show it
                    D                                                          G
If you’re happy and you know it clap your hands (clap clap)

Previous #ukuleleSongFridays

Everybody Stand Up (original)

Five Little Monkeys Jumping on the Bed

Apples and Bananas

The Washing Machine Song

Head and Shoulders Knees and Toes

There’s a Hole in the Bottom of the Sea

Elephant Song (original)

Bumping up and Down in my Little Red Wagon

Ants on the Ground (original) 

Bop Till You Drop

The Hokey Pokey

Brush Your Teeth

The Silly Dance Contest

Shake My Sillies Out

Hands are For Clapping


It Depends on How You Look at it, I Guess


I reread this book for the first time in years the other day. I was thinking, “Aww. What a nice, happy ending for the house. She gets to live in the the country again. I’m going to read it to my students.”

So I am. I’m reading it to most of my students (1st-5th grade) this week. I love this book, and I think everyone should hear it at least once in their childhood.

I read it to the first class, which happened to be a group of second graders. My son also happens to be in that class.

I got to the end of the book, and again I thought to myself, “What a nice happy ending.”

Then my son blurted out, “Well, that’s depressing.”

Taken aback, I asked him what he meant.

“Well,” he explained, “It’s just going to start all over again. The city is going to take over the country and the house will end up in the middle of the city again. She’ll  be sad until they move her again, and then after they do, the city will just take over again. People are never going to stop building cities.”

I didn’t tell him, but of course he’s right, and Virginia Lee Burton probably knew it would happen again as well.

This isn’t the first time my son read into a book better than I did, and it probably won’t be the last.

Thanks for ruining a childhood classic, son.

Thanks, a lot.

The top books of August

This week, schools all around the country are in the middle of their first week of the school year. Here in Alabama, we’re just finishing out our first month. I don’t have a real reason for why we start so much earlier but my belief has always been that in Alabama, in August, it’s too hot for the kids to play outside anyways, so why not have them in school?

At the beginning of every month, I like to look at the circulation numbers for the previous month to see what circulated the best. I do this for a two reasons.  1. It’s good for me to know what the kids are liking, so I can get more of it, and 2. I like to do these celebratory blog posts. Good books that kids are loving deserve their day in the spotlight.

For those of you that don’t know, I serve pre-school through 5th grade, which means my youngest students are three, and my oldest are ten. Here are the books they checked out most in August of 2018.

#1. We Are in a Book!-8 checkouts (in one month!)


No surprise here. This book has been the most popular for the whole school year, three years in a row. It makes sense that it would start out the 2018-2019 school year with a bang.

#2. Dog Man: Tale of Two Kitties- 7 checkouts

dogman tale

This series has been crazy popular. I expect the new one to be on these top ten lists very soon.

#3. Guinness Book of World Records 2018- 6 check outs


We all loved these books when we were kids. Our kids love them now. Guinness has a good franchise going here. If only they would make their 30 dollar books to last more than a few readings. That’s right Guinness, I’m calling you out. Your books fall apart way too soon, too often.

#4. Diary of a Wimpy Kid: The Getaway- 6 checkouts


If you’re new here, Greg is on these lists a LOT.

#5. My New Friend is so Fun- 6 checkouts


It’s also not uncommon to find an Elephant and Piggie book or two, or three of four.

#6. Smile- 5 checkouts


This one will is here a lot, too.

#7. Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone

harry potter

20 years later. #always

Fun fact: I’ve never spelled “sorcerer” right on the first try.

#8. 39-Story Treehouse- 5 checkouts


My students love these books.

#9. Apocalypse Bow Wow- 5 checkouts


This was probably the only surprise on the list for me. I knew it was doing well, but not this well.

#10: Captain Underpants and the Wrath of the Wicked Wedgie Woman-5 checkouts


Captain Underpants has always been big, but a new Netflix series has given it an even bigger boost.

That’s it! What are the kids in your life reading lots of?

Is Square a Geisel Contender?


Is Mac Barnett and Jon Klassen’s Square a contender for the 2019 Geisel Award? What do you think? I’m guest posting over on the Guessing Geisel to discuss this very question. Check it out! 

A Closer Look at a Caldecott winner

Noah's Ark.jpg


I have this big poster of all of the books that have won the Caldecott medal (up until 2007. It’s an old poster) in the back of the library. I’ve been trying to read a few winners every week, and I’ve discovered some very good books this way.

Today I read Spier’s Noah’s Ark for the first time, and I am so glad I did.  I am amazed at all of the things Spier made me feel about a story I already knew so well, with his detail-packed illustrations.

He made me laugh with:

Noah’s difficulty in getting the donkey on the ark.


and getting the elephant off of the ark.


Noah’s wife and the mice


Noah and the bees


Noah and the caffeine withdraws.


and “What the heck is this thing?”


He impressed me with the thoughtfulness of including the dodo birds.


This one made me sad. All of the animals arriving to see their friends off, and they just stand there and eventually drown. Ok, so it made me laugh actually, but I should have been sad.


ark 2

And this one of the empty ark and open door made me thoughtful. Was Noah a little sad when his time on the ark ended? Like when a difficult period of your life is finished? You’re glad it’s over, but there’s still this element of sadness in there.


Thank you, Peter Spier for this lovely book, and this “fresh” 40-year old take on a story thousands of years old.



But You Already Read That Book!: A Mystery Solved

I think anyone who reads books out loud to kids has had it happen to them. As soon as you read the title and open the book, a kid shouts out, “YOU ALREADY READ THAT ONE TO US!”

Sometimes it will be a sequel to the book I already read, and it just looks similar. I’ll gently point out to the kid that it may look the same, but it’s not.

Sometimes, not often mind you, I made a mistake in my lesson plans and didn’t catch that I had already read the book earlier in the year. I am proud to say that this has only happened to me once. I was embarrassed.

Sometimes the kid has heard the book already, but from someone else, maybe their teacher read it, or a parent, or maybe even another librarian in a different place.

It happened to me yesterday, a whole day before the class I was supposed to read the book to came into the library.

I wrote about We Don’t Eat our Classmates, yesterday. I wrote about how much I liked it, and if I had it before, it would have topped my “Back to School list” 

we don't eat out classmates

Well, after school I had it on my desk and was reading through it again.

My oldest daughter, who is in kindergarten, walked up and said. “I like that book.”

I asked, “When have you read this book? I just got it.”

She said, “You read it to us in library last week.”

I said, “No, I didn’t. I just got it in.”

She proceeded to tell me all about the book and everything that happens.

“So maybe you have heard the book. Who read it to you?” I asked.

“You did. I remember I heard it on the library carpet, and I remember your voice reading it.” she said.

“Ummmm. No. Up until five minutes ago I had never read this book in my life.”

“Yes, you did.”

My son, who was working on his spelling homework piped in.

“She remembered the book, Dad. You must have had another copy of it, and forgot.”

At this point, I’m starting to feel a little crazy. My daughter wasn’t budging. She was sure that I was the one who had read the book to her. I was just as sure that the book was brand new to me, and that I had never, ever read it to a class.

My son laughed. “Maybe you are going to find a TARDIS in the future, and you’ll come back to read the book to her class last week.”

“Ha ha. But for real. Where did you hear this book?”

My daughter shrugged. “I already told you. You read it to my class.”

“I was planning on reading it to your class tomorrow. Look. Here are the books I read to your class last week.” I opened up my lesson plans in Google Drive.

Pete the Cat: Rocking in My School Shoes, School’s First Day of School,  Jabari Jumps, Chu’s First Day. See? That’s all. I didn’t read We Don’t Eat our Classmates.”

‘Yes, you did. You read that one, too.”


This conversation went on throughout our drive home.

I dropped the kids off with my wife, and I went back to school for a faculty meeting. After the meeting I approached my daughter’s teacher and said, “Can I ask you something that will help me solve a mystery?”

It turned out she was the one who read the book. My daughter was just remembering it completely wrong. One of the other kindergarten teachers had also heard good things about We Don’t Eat Our Classmates. She went out and bought it, read it to her class and also gave it to the other kindergarten teachers to read to their classes. I should have known. We have the best teachers at this school, and of course they read the best book to their kids.

Sadly, I deleted We Don’t Eat Our Classmates. From my kindergarten lesson plans. Well, not really sadly. I wanted to read it to them, but I was happy they got to hear it from someone else. It gives me an opportunity to read another fabulous book, that might not have made the cut otherwise.






My New Favorite Back to School Book

we don't eat out classmates

Last week I made a list of my top 10 back to school  books.  After hearing good things about Ryan Higgins’ We Don’t Eat Our Classmates, I had it ordered and I really hoped it would get here by the first week of school. It didn’t happen. I decided to go ahead with my list without it.

It’s a shame because my copy just came in like five minutes ago, and after one read I am certain that it would have held the number one spot. Ryan Higgins has written several really good picture books, but I think this one is probably his best.

It’s hilarious, the illustrations are great, and the message is on point. The market is flooded with back to school books, but this one is special.

I don’t want to give too much away, but if you teach preschool-1st grade, and you haven’t started the new  school year yet, you need this book.

Lucky for me, it will make a very good read-aloud for the second week of school  as well. 🙂



My Top Ten Back to School Books

It’s that time again! We’ve had a nice long break, and it’s time to start a new school year! There’s a lot of excitement in the air. Some of the little ones have some nerves, but all of that will get worked out. Here are my 10 favorite books to read to my students during this first week.

10. Jabari Jumps


First book on the list, and it has nothing to do with the first day of school, or school at all for that matter. It is about being nervous to try something new, gathering your courage and taking the plunge, though. I think kids in a brand new class, or a new school can relate to how Jabari is feeling. I sincerely love this book. It’s always a story time hit, and when Jabari does make that leap, a lot of the the classes have kids that erupt in applause and cheering. I love that.

9. Lilly’s Purple Plastic Purse


Just a warning: Even though there are only ten books on this list, you’ll see Kevin Henkes a few times. He’s really good at the back to school book.

A new school year means a new teacher. A child has to learn how to  tolerate, get a long with and even impress a new person with a completely different personality than last year’s teacher. Lilly is dealing with this, and it leads to some conflict.

8. Enemy Pie

enemy pie

Here’s another one that really has nothing to do with school. When kids are entering a new class, they can find themselves separated from best friends, surrounded by strangers, or even sitting next to someone that they really don’t like. People can surprise you though, and even someone you thought was an enemy can become a friend if you give them a chance.

7. Chrysanthemum


Kids can be mean. Especially when a kid is different in any way. This is a good book for kids dealing with that, and also for kids who are having a hard time accepting a kid who is unique.

6. A Fine, Fine School

fine, fine school

This one is really good for older classes (2nd-5th grade). School is good and all, but like everything, it’s best in moderation. This book is really good for those gung-ho Hermione types, who are likely to be burned out by Halloween, but it’s also good for those kids who are anxious and wondering how much is going to be expected of them. Teachers totally get the need for rest and play time.

5. Wemberly Worried


Another great Henkes title, dealing with anxiety on the first day of school.

4. Pricilla Gorilla


I think the sweet spot for this book is 2nd grade, but 1st- 3rd all enjoy it. It’s another great one about student-teacher conflict, celebrating personalities, and finding the appropriate times to let that personality shine.

3. Chu’s First Day of School


Did you know Neil Gaiman has some really good picture books? This is the sequel to Chu’s Day, but I like this one more. It’s perfect for preschool and kindergarten. A little panda is nervous about his first day of school, but it turns out, he has nothing to be worried about.

2. School’s First Day of School


This book is phenomenal.  Robinson’s illustrations are perfect, and Rex’s text is on point. It’s told from the point of view of a new school who is nervous about having kids inside for the first time. The janitor serves as a guide and mentor, and the school befriends a little girl who is also anxious about the new beginning. It’s a perfect read for kindergarten and first grade.

1. Pete the Cat: Rocking in My School Shoes


I had a small crisis last week when I couldn’t find this book on my shelves before school started. I needn’t have worried, though. I think every preschool teacher in my school has it in their class collection., and they would have been happy to let me borrow it. (I eventually found it on display)  This book is great for preschoolers and kindergartners, There’s class participation (with the singing) and it’s a good introduction to the different places in the school, and the different activities the kids will be doing. Pete’s laid back, cool attitude toward school will help the most anxious kid feel like it’s all good.

Every. Single. Year. I get comments from kids about how Pete shouldn’t stand in the swing.  This year, though, I’m two classes in, and no kids have mentioned it. It’s probably coming.

Pete 2


Honorable mentions go to First Day Jitters, David Goes to School and Llama Llama Misses Mama.

This is by no means a definitive list. There are so many good books out there. This is just what I like to read that first week. What about you? What are your favorites?


Let’s Talk About Books! Episode 3 – Katherine Applegate’s Endling- The Last

In this episode, I talk very briefly about Katherine Applegate’s latest book Endling- The Last. My kids also hop on to talk about books that they just finished.




go otto go

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