Non-snoozy storytimes

Need some inspiration for a new year of storytimes? Learn how to shake things up with Julie Roach's classic tips for reading aloud, then choose one of these lively new picture books and invite participants to vroom, roar, bark, and awoooooooo along.

The latest of Kate and Jim McMullan's things-that-go books, I'm Tough!, stars a plucky red pickup truck who hauls lumber, gravel, and hay bales around the countryside, all the while commenting on truck parts (cab, cargo bed, tailgate), terminology (fanny flag, ratchet straps, truck squat), and capabilities ("Who needs a road? Not me. Over the curb! Bump BUMP!"). Vrooming sound effects and interjections, bold-hued illustrations, and a bright-eyed little truck with an outsized smile make for pure vehicle-loving fun. (HarperCollins/Balzer + Bray, 3–5 years)

A fallen tree balanced atop a boulder makes a perfect prehistoric seesaw in Bigger Than You by Hyewon Kyung, an entertaining mashup of dinosaurs, playtime, and simple machines. "Who wants to play with me?" asks a Dimetrodon. A smug Minmi steps onto the opposite end, lifting the more diminutive Dimetrodon into the air: "I'm bigger than you." This pattern repeats until a fiery-red T. rex appears, shaking up the muted color palette (and the story's narrative) when it loses its temper ("ROAR!") and breaks the seesaw. The surprise arrival of the biggest dinosaur yet — the T. rex's mother — gets everyone playing together nicely. (Greenwillow, 3–5 years)

Bark Park! captures the excitement of a dog park from the canine perspective, celebrating the opportunity to run free, befriend other dogs, roll in the mud, etc. Author Trudy Krisher's punchy couplets are composed of short phrases, and the text features a catchy refrain: "Dogs at the park... / Bark! Bark! Bark!" There's lots of humor and detail in the watercolor, colored-pencil, and pen-and-ink illustrations by Brooke Boynton-Hughes. (Simon/Beach Lane, 3–5 years)

In Valeri Gorbachev's Lost and Found Ducklings, the plaintive peeping of two ducklings lost in the woods catches the attention of the forest animals. Each of the kindly creatures tries to help by calling loudly for the ducklings' parents, making the forest into "a very noisy place." Watercolor, gouache, and ink illustrations highlight the comical reactions as each creature shouts in his or her own unique way. Their expressions, along with the letters flowing from each critter's mouth ("Awoooooooo!"), make for a very funny — and yes, noisy — story. (Holiday, 4–7 years)

From the January 2019 issue of Notes from the Horn Book.

Katie Bircher

Katie Bircher, formerly editor of The Horn Book Guide, is a freelance children’s and YA editor. She's also a former bookseller who holds an MA in children's literature from Simmons University. She served as chair of the 2018 Boston Globe-Horn Book Award committee. Follow Katie on Twitter @lyraelle.

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