The One and Only Ivan Bulletin Board

My second graders are currently reading The One and Only Ivan by Katherine Applegate with their classroom teacher and I wanted to amp up excitement about the book.
Initially, I had intended to simply put up the cover of the book and add some interesting facts about the real Ivan. Wait, Ivan was real? He sure was. Check out the Katherine Applegate’s webite, she has a great deal of information about the real Ivan. She also has a new book coming out in October 2014 – Ivan: The Remarkable True Story of the Shopping Mall Gorilla.
In true librarian form, the more research I did, the more excited I got about the One and Only Ivan bulletin board. I ended up with a slew of facts about not only the real Ivan, but about the gorilla population, as a whole. I also added an (almost) life-size cut out of a gorilla. The paper gorilla ended up being 5’4″ with an arm span of 8 feet.
I used an overhead projector to trace the gorilla and then free-hand cut his face out of a piece of gray construction paper. 
The board has been up for two days now and people have constantly been coming in to share their excitement! I love watching the kiddos stand there and reading all the interesting facts, it has been far more engaging than I ever anticipated. The facts include:
  • The average male gorilla stands between 5 and 7 feet.
  • The arm span of an average male gorilla is almost 9 feet!
  • The average male gorilla eats over 40 pounds of food per day, the average American person eats 5-6 pounds of food per day.
  • Gorillas are herbivores – they eat leaves, shoots, roots, vines and fruits.
  • The lifespan of an average male gorilla is 35 years. Ivan lived to be 50 years old.
  • There are 4 subspecies of gorillas: Eastern lowland, Mountain, Western lowland, Cross River.
  • Gorillas are an endangered species, there are less than 300 Cross River gorillas left in the world.
  • The One and Only Ivan is fictional, but was inspired by a true story.
  • Ivan was a male Western lowland gorilla.
  • Ivan was captured in what is now the Democratic Republic of Congo.
  • Ivan and (what is believed to be) his sister were captured as infants and brought to the United States. Ivan’s sister died shortly after arriving.
  • Ivan was raised in a home until he became too big and unmanageable. He was moved to the B&I Circus Store in Tacoma, Washington.
  • Ivan’s cage in Tacoma was only 40 feet by 40 feet!
  • Ivan spent 27 years alone in his cage without seeing another of his kind.
  • When the mall where Ivan lived went bankrupt (they didn’t have any money), he was moved to the Zoo Atlanta. Before his move to Atlanta, Georgia, Ivan spent a short time at the Woodland Park Zoo in Seattle.
I did include a citation sheet on my bulletin board so I could model that behavior for students. I found my information on the following sites:

Library Menagerie

The library menagerie is constantly growing…

They brighten our spirits, make wonderful reading buddies, create perfect opportunities to connect with hesitant little ones, and bring already fun stories to life.
Oh, the possibilities of storytime fun…
If you don’t have a fluffy zoo in your library yet, I would highly suggest it. It opens opportunities and creates connections I would never have dreamt possible.

Under the Ocean Genre Bulletin Board

 I meant to put my Reader’s Reef board together a month ago, but then the Seahawks went and got into the Super Bowl (yaaaay!) and I put up a football bulletin board. This meant a change in my bulletin board schedule. Yep, that’s right, I schedule my bulletin boards in advance, sometimes as much as two months. It’s because of Pinterest, really. There are just too many amazing inspirations, I have to devise a plan to bring all of those pins to fruition.

My latest library bulletin board was inspired by Courtney and her stunning Teaching in Paradise blog. When I was looking for genre posters on TPT (and desperately wishing I could do graphic design), I came across this set from Ginger Snaps Treats (you can also find her on Teachers Notebook). I loved the poster set so much that I bought my own home laminator and now they are shiny and eternally beautiful.

I found a fun ocean-themed clip art set from MyClipArtStore on Etsy and the color scheme just popped! I made some coral using construction paper, tempera paint and a crumpled paper towel and voilĂ !

I only wish my camera could do it justice…

Preschool Storytime: Cars, Trucks and Things That Go Vroom

Starting a new job is always scary. Heck, for me, being anywhere new is scary. So, when this email popped up in my inbox this week, I felt like I’ve found where I’m meant to be.

I just wanted to drop a line as a parent [and a teacher] to rave about
Becky! It was so exciting to go to the library the other day with [my son] only to
discover that the floor was transformed into a street with tons of cars and
more to play with. [He] was in heaven! So thankful for our creative and
hardworking librarian Becky. She is a gem.

Now, I share this not to toot my own horn, but because it’s these little gestures that let me take a deep breath and go, okay, maybe I’m actually doing a good job at this. For today at least. This is my sixth year as a school librarian and I still wonder when I’m going to feel like I “know” what I’m doing. With that being said, my “Cars, Trucks and Things That Go Vroom” storytime had the type of energy that assured me I was on the right path.

Cars & Trucks & Things That Go Vroom,
(A big thanks to storytime katie for the inspiration on the decor)
It was a reading-heavy storytime week, followed by some serious play!


Cars & Trucks & Things That Go Vroom,

Book: Sheep in a Jeep
by: Nancy Shaw
This was a favorite
in my house growing up and it’s still a timeless classic! The kids love
the rhyming and how careless the sheep are with their jeep.

Cars & Trucks & Things That Go Vroom,

Book: Mr. Grumpy’s Motor Car
by: John Burningham
I think there is something so charming about the illustrations of John Burningham’s books. The story is cute but the ending left the kids saying, “So what happened?” And my only response could be, “Nothing, they all went home.” Followed by crickets… I love this book, but I don’t think it lends itself well to a class read-aloud.

Cars & Trucks & Things That Go Vroom,

Book: Cars and Trucks and Things That Go
by: Richard Scarry
As much as I love Richard Scarry (and I seriously love him!), some of his books aren’t very conducive to a preschool storytime. Cars and Trucks and Things That Go is a huge hit with the kids, but I simply read the first few pages, we found Goldbug (the adorable little insect hiding on many of the pages) and then I encouraged them to check it out and explore the pages at home.

After singing the Wheels on the Bus, it was time to play!
The track was made using masking tape (it has withstood some intense racing) and the stop signs and stoplights are laminated construction paper. Add in a bag of old Matchbox cars and you have endless fun!
Cars & Trucks & Things That Go Vroom,
Cars & Trucks & Things That Go Vroom,
Before leaving, I gave each kiddo a paper steering wheel (thanks to Sunflower Storytime for this wonderfully simple and fun take-away craft). I later saw that some of the classes decorated their wheels and were “driving” through the school.

Preschool Storytime: We’re Going on a Bear Hunt

Things are getting a little wild! Last week I turned our library into a giant interactive bear hunt.
We're Going on A Bear Hunt, see more at
There are so many amazing ideas to bring this story to life that I could have an entire (overflowing) Pinterest board dedicated to just this one book. Now, don’t get me wrong, this is a girl that lives and breathes Pinterest and I am incredibly thankful to all those amazing and talented people out there who are sharing their ideas, but when there are so many awesome ideas, sometimes my brain gets a little ahead of itself. I could do this storytime week after week and still not have completed all the cool ideas I’ve discovered. With that being said, this feels like just the tip of the potential bear hunting iceberg… One post that really resonated with me was Daniele’s from Domestic Serenity; she inspired my most hands-on storytime yet.
Our art teacher and assistant librarian made these amazing bear tracks using a piece of foam and print-making supplies, aren’t they fantastic? And to think, I was just going to find some clipart prints and make copies on brown paper. Sigh. I’m so incredibly lucky to work with such amazing people. Double sigh.
We're Going on A Bear Hunt, see more at
We laminated the tracks and taped them down using 3-inch book tape. They held up throughout the week and we’ll be able to use them again in the future.
We're Going on A Bear Hunt, see more at
Section one: Swishy-swashy grass
This one was very simple, just butcher paper, construction paper, tempera paint and packing tape. By taping the grass on both sides, it withstood many (many) little feet swishing through it.
We're Going on A Bear Hunt, see more at
Have I mentioned lately that I love my job?
We're Going on A Bear Hunt, see more at
We're Going on A Bear Hunt, see more at
Section two: Splishy-splashy river
I used more butcher paper, rocks from a hike near the Puget Sound, and blue gel (don’t ask, it’s some fancy plastic filmmakers use to color lights. I was gifted the gel and apparently it’s not cheap. I’m sure there are other colorful alternatives.
We're Going on A Bear Hunt, see more at
Section three: Ooey-gooey mud
This was my favorite and my least favorite. I used Anna’s recipe for chocolate play dough from the Imagination Tree, it turned out great! The only change I made was to add a scoop of garden dirt to make it look a little more rustic. Now, I initially intended to have the kids go through this course barefoot in order to make it a very sensory experience but that quickly changed (some things you just look back at and have to laugh at yourself). When I realized they would be going through with shoes, I covered the “mud” in clear plastic wrap and it worked great. They could still feel the ooey-gooey texture, but it kept the dough from sticking to their shoes. Keep in mind, it did squish out a little and did leave marks on the carpet. It was easily cleaned up using dish soap and a scrub brush (wait until it dries before you try cleaning). Also, the dough will dry out relatively quickly, so keep it well covered.
We're Going on A Bear Hunt, see more at
Section four: Stumble-trippy forest
This was compliments of a friend who collected branches on our hike, tied them together and strung them over the table. I topped it off with evergreen branches and Viola! I wanted to be sure the forest wasn’t too dark and scary and this plan worked, the kids loved crawling through it!
We're Going on A Bear Hunt, see more at
We're Going on A Bear Hunt, see more at
Section five: Whirly-swirly snowstorm
Okay, so it’s a little lackluster, but it was actually quite popular. The younger kids especially loved stomping around in the cotton ball snow.
We're Going on A Bear Hunt, see more at
Section six: Tippy-toey bear cave
Take a table, add some thick black plastic, toss in some black paper boulders, and you have a ready-made drive-thru car wash! Err, I mean, bear cave! The kids would have loved to see this stay put all year!
We're Going on A Bear Hunt, see more at
We're Going on A Bear Hunt, see more at
Our Head of School ended up bringing tours and visitors through to check out the course, so I’d say it was an all-around success! Ahh, the life of a librarian!

Just a Little More Tu B’Shevat

Okay, I promise this is the last Tu B’Shevat-insipred post, but I just couldn’t resist sharing the piece de resistance! And I won’t say much, because I think it speaks for itself…
The tree is made of recycled brown paper bags, the leaves are pages from an old book (cut into heart shapes and painted with green tempera paint), the wording is made from twigs picked up off of the school playground, and the moss is from Hobby Lobby (it would have taken waaaaay too long to dry moss from outside–this is Seattle, after all).

More Tu B’Shevat Decor

It’s interesting that a month ago I had never heard of Tu B’Shevat and now, it is quickly becoming one of my favorite Jewish holidays. It certainly provides ample opportunities to decorate the library. And I will take any excuse I can get in order to decorate. Needless to say, when I saw Dena’s beautiful line-drawn trees over at Chai & Home, I knew I had to try to create some garland of my own.

First and foremost, I will never claim to be an artist. I can trace like a madman, but anything beyond that usually turns out to be a disappointment. So, when Dena said that the trees were “dead easy to draw even if you never, ever, ever draw,” I thought I was good to go. Well, you be the judge. I think some are adorable and others are, well… a little lopsided-rainbow-ish looking.

Regardless, once they were hung in the library (from a distance) they added a nice, rustic touch and I loved the look of the recycled brown paper bag and cotton string. I just adore the little clothespins (granted, I have to adore them, I think I drove 30+ miles to get them). And the best part, because the school is settled in a beautiful forest-y area, I think the garland might stay up in the window for the foreseeable future.