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I have been composing this post for a couple of days, ever since Thursday night when I was gathering music for DiscoveryTime, and afterwards was listening to the songs I had downloaded off of Freegal. For those, who have no idea what I’m talking about, here is the description: “Freegal is a downloadable music service from your library. All you need is your library card number and, if your library requires it, a PIN. Freegal offers access to about 3 million songs, including Sony Music’s catalog of legendary artists.” While this E-library music program is not without its problems, i.e. hard to search and only Sony artists, I am enjoying get free legal music. I was actually listening to Weird Al Yankovic’s song Word Crimes off his most recent album Mandatory Fun, which by the way I think is one of the best and funniest of all his music. The way he rhymes is just incredible and although I’m sure some people will be offended by the song, others like those who appreciate correct words and spelling will enjoy it.

Spike Jones

I have been listening to parody music for ages. When I was little, my dad had Spike Jones albums and those were pretty hilarious. My favorites were the opera parodies of Bizet’s Carmen and Leoncavallo’s Il Pagliacci. Spike Jones influenced other comedians like Dr. Demento, who later influenced Weird Al, so I guess moving to him was a natural progression for me. I started listening to Weird Al probably when I was about ten or eleven. My younger brother, probably courtesy of my dad, was the first one to listen to him. We started watching the music videos and bought a couple of the video tapes. Honestly, for awhile there, if it wasn’t for Weird Al’s parody versions of songs, I probably wouldn’t have listened to the originals. For example, “Eat It” was better than Michael Jackson’s “Beat It”, “I Love Rocky Road” in my opinion is better than Joan Jett’s “I love Rock ‘n Roll” , “Like a Surgeon” was better than Madonna’s “Like a Virgin”, and “Pretty Fly for a Rabbi” instead of The Offsprings’s “Pretty Fly for a White Guy”. If anyone is interested, here’s a full list of his parody songs and polka mash-ups.


My favorites of his are “Smells Like Nirvana” (parody of Nirvana’s “Smells Like Teen Spirit”) and “Amish Paradise” (parody of Coolio’s “Gangsta’s Paradise”). Weird Al mentions on his website that he asks permission from the artist before doing all parody versions, and Nirvana commented that they “knew they had made it after hearing about his parody of their song”. In all honestly, I never listened to “Smells Like Teen Spirit” until after lead singer Kurt Cobain killed himself, and really not until my undergraduate years when I had friends that listened to that kind of music. The marble part of the song makes me laugh every time. As for “Amish Paradise”, it’s all about Florence Henderson, Amish guys rapping and butter churning. Need I say more? My new third favorite is “Word Crimes,” a parody of the very controversial “Blurred Lines” by Robin Thicke. I will admit the original song is really catchy, despite its subject matter, which makes the parody version even more awesome. For other great songs on his newest album Mandatory Fun, check out the artist’s homepage and scroll down a bit.


I’m a bad blogger. I’ve been meaning to write forever but keep getting distracted. My new job in Youth Services at my local public library has been challenging, but also very enjoyable and I am learning a lot. I started doing Discoverytime (henceforth abbreviated at DT) on my own three weeks ago, and it is Preschool Storytime with a STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) component added in. Basically I read one nonfiction book and one fiction book, and do some activities or explain something scientific to the kids. I was supposed to train for a month and then do one on my own, but the person I was supposed to train with had some health issues so I ended up helping with two of them with a second person before doing it by myself. It is a lot of fun, though sometimes I think I’m having more fun than the parents or kids. It is supposed to be for ages 3-5, but I usually get a lot of younger kids as well, so it makes for an interesting storytime trying to find something that predominantly 2-4 year olds can understand. I usually will pick the books first and then find activities and songs to fit around it. They normally last 30-40 minutes. Prior to starting this 3 weeks ago, I had only done one Preschool storytime in Library Grad School. Aside from reading to my own 3 yr old son and some of his classmates at daycare, I did not have much experience with this age group. My first week by myself I did one on Bats and Echolocation, followed by Frogs, and the one this week on My Body: Exploring the Human Body. I picked bats because I’ve alwasy kind of been fascinated with them, despite their creepy reputation, so I try to convey that to the kids. I’ve loved frogs forever, so that’s why I picked them and I just thought the Human Body DT would be fun, assuming I made it fun and not too gross or complicated. I will say I definitely know a lot more about these three topics, but I have always enjoyed research so I find that part of the organization fun. I’m going to post my outline for what I did for the Bats below. This is my first DT so it was pretty rough, but the kids had a lot of fun with the activities, even if the songs weren’t that successful. I’ve definitely learned that bubble time is essential to a good storytime.


DiscoveryTime: Bats and Echolocation

  • Welcome to DiscoveryTime! My name is Miss Rachel. I’m so excited to see you guys and we’re going to have a wonderful time.
  • Welcome Song: Hello Hello
  • Book: Endangered Bats by Bobbie Kalman
    • Summary:
      • Almost 1,000 species (types) of bats in the world
      • ¼ are endangered, which means they might die out in the wild, where there is no people
      • Bats are warm-blooded mammals that have fur and drink milk from their mommies. Bats are the only mammals that can fly. They are nocturnal, which means they sleep during the day and are awake and hunt at night. They sleep upside down hanging from trees, cave walls and other structures.
      • Two groups of Bats: Microbats (small) which are carnivores (they eat meat, such as insects, fish, scorpions, lizards, frogs or birds) and Megabats (large) are herbivores (eat plants such as fruit or drink nectar from flowers or feed on pollen). Microbats help control insect populations, like mosquitoes from biting people. The smallest bat is the size of bumblebee, and the largest has wings that are nearly 6 ft across.
      • Some live alone but most live in colonies with many many other bats
      • Bats are losing their habitats (the places they live) to humans that are clearing forest for lumber, as well as farmers who use pesticides (harmful chemicals to kill insects) and pollution.
  • Fingerplay: Five Little Bats
    • First, make five bats, and tape one to each finger.Five little bats flew out one night (Hold up five fingers.)To have some fun in the bright moonlight. (Move your hand in a circle.)The first one said, “You can’t catch me!” (Move your thumb away to the side.)

      The second one said, “Look out for the tree!” (Shake your first finger in warning.)

      The third one said, “I love to swoop.” (Make your middle finger do a graceful dive.)

      The fourth one did a loop-the-loop. (Move your ring finger in a circle.)

      The fifth one said, “Let’s catch some gnats!” (Wiggle your little finger.)

      Isn’t it fun being five little bats! (Wiggle all five fingers.)

  • Song: I’m a Bat by Mary Flynn (sung to: You are my Sunshine)

I love the nighttime,

The dark, black nighttime,

And that is when I fly around.

I am nocturnal.

I love the nighttime.

‘Cause I’m a bat,

I fly without a sound!

  • Book: Nightsong by Ari Berk
  • Song: Bats are sleeping Bats are sleeping (sung to: Frere Jacques)

Bats are sleeping, Bats are sleeping

Upside down, upside down

Waiting for the night

Waiting for the night

Then fly around, Then fly around

  • Fingerplay: Two Little Bats
    • Two little bats (hold up 2 fingers or thumbs)

hanging in a cave (point fingers upside down)

one named Dan (hold up 1 finger)

and one named Dave (hold up other finger)

Fly away Dan! (1st finger makes flying motions to behind your back)

Fly away Dave! (2nd finger flies behind back)

Come back Dan, (1st finger returns)

Come back Dave. (2nd finger returns)

  • Activity: Echolocation
    • Bats use echolocation, a system of sending out high-pitched sounds that bounce off of objects, to move through the darkness and locate food. Has anyone seen the movie How to Train Your Dragon? The Nightfury Toothless uses echolocation through a plasma blast to do the same thing –so he can find his way in the dark without being able to see.
    • Bat Senses
      Though bats do not see very well, most bats send out sounds that bounce off objects and return to the bat’s ears as echoes. A bat can decide where objects are, how big objects are, even the shape of objects so they know what is food and what they might run into.

      • Vibrations
        • Have one or two children on one side of the room facing the wall with their eyes closed and behind them on the other side, have another child clap or use the bells/tambourine. Ask the child(ren) with their eyes closed to tell which side the noise is coming from.
        • Making paper cup telephones is an easy way to teach preschoolers about how sound travels. Make sure the string is pulled taut. Are the words heard more clearly? When someone talks into the cup, the bottom of the cup vibrates and the string carries the sound to the other cup. Ask them what they think will happen if the string is held loosely and then let the children experiment to find out.
          • Make a couple of examples and have the kids take turns with them
  • Bubble Time Songs: One Little Two Little Bubbles and I’m a Bubble by Jennifer Gasoi
  • Closing Song
    • WE WAVE GOODBYE LIKE THIS (Closing Song)
      To the tune of “Farmer in the Dell”

We wave goodbye like this.
We wave goodbye like this.
We clap our hands for all our friends.
We wave goodbye like this.


Informational Sheet I gave the kids to take home

Factoids About Bats

  • In China, bats are symbols of good luck. The Chinese character wu-fu shows five bats with wings touching representing health, wealth, long life, good luck, and happiness.
  • Bat echolocation can detect objects as thin as a human hair, yet researchers can catch bats when they fly into nets. Why? Scientists think bats get used to flying safely along certain paths and sometimes do not notice new obstacles in their way.
  • Bats can purr! Like cats, a bat may vibrate, or purr, when resting or content.
  • People often fear vampire bats, but a protein from vampire saliva can help heal people after they have strokes.

Bat-Watching Area
Did you know Phoenix has a great urban bat-watching opportunity? Each summer several thousand Mexican free-tailed bats and western pipistrelle bats use the Maricopa County Flood Control Tunnel near 40th Street and Camelback Road as a day roost.

Directions to see the bats:
From 40th Street and Camelback Road intersection, head north on 40th Street. (Parking is very limited; please respect private property and restricted areas. You may need to park south of the intersection.) The path (levee) to the tunnel is located on the north side of the Arizona Canal. Head west on the path about 200 yards (past buildings and parking garage). You will see the flood control channel just north of the canal. Head north about 20 feet from the gravel path to the paved path. The paved path will take you to the top of the tunnel (you’ll see bat-watching information signs posted here), and you can look over as the bats fly out of the tunnel.

They exit the tunnel just after sunset each night (total exit time; approximately 45 minutes) throughout the summer months (May through October). If you’re an early bird, you may just want to see them return around sunrise each morning!

The Legend of Sheba

The Legend of Sheba

The Legend of Sheba: Rise of a Queen by Tosca Lee

To be published: Sept 9, 2014

Set in tenth century B.C.E., Bilqis is the daughter of one of the most beautiful wives of the King of Saba, also known as Sheba (located in modern-day Yemen). After her mother passes away, she is targeted by the new wife and forced to flee to her mother’s homeland of Punt (the actual location is disputed, but we’ll say that it is in modern-day Ethiopia). She takes on a new identity and becomes Makeda. Once she becomes eighteen and her father is gravely ill, she is taken back to Saba and successfully regains the throne. King Solomon of Judea, famous for his hundreds of wives which provided many alliances and his wealth, starts up a correspondence with the Queen and this continues for awhile until he demands she send an emissary. Lonely and intrigued by this man, she decides to go herself to see him. What happens next is written in the Bible, the Qu’ran and other texts.

I will admit that I originally picked up this book after reading Jonathan Stroud’s Bartimaeus book The Ring of Solomon, which briefly mentioned both King Solomon and the Queen of Sheba. Also, I did an art talk on Ethiopian Orthodox art and happened upon the origin story The Glory of the Kings, which describes the Ethiopian kings being descended from the mythical Queen of Sheba and King Solomon, made me curious to know more about her. It reminded me of something of both Ancient Egyptian history and the Arabian Nights. I love books about strong historical women and this book did not disappoint in that regard. I love that she conquered Solomon with her words and by not revealing her face for most of the storyline! I was glad that she managed to find some true love, despite the tragedy in her life. I think I liked and respected her more because she did not grow up a privileged brat but rather had to fend for herself and fight to be independent as a ruler and lover. Highly recommended, 5 stars.

Disclaimer: I received this advanced reader’s copy book via Netgalley in exchange for my honest review.

Fractions in Disguise

Fractions cover

Fractions in Disguise: A Math Adventure by Edward Einhorn, illustrated by David Clark

Published March 25, 2014

The author asked if I would review his newest math adventure book. I accepted as I enjoy his authorship of “Paradox in Oz”. I am not a big math fan, but I was pleasantly surprised by this book and its fun and amusing puns. I also loved the illustrations by David Clark. It would be great for a reluctant reader who likes math or to use in a classroom to help kids understand how to simplify fractions. There is a longer description of fraction reduction in the back of the book.

The book is about a young man named George Cornelius Factor, who is part of a small group of fraction collectors, and is very interested in acquiring the fraction 5/8. It is stolen by Dr. Brok, who immediately changes it to make it unrecognizable. But all hope is not lost. Factor invents “The Reducer” which reduces a fraction to its lowest terms and uncovers the missing fraction. He proudly displays his newest acquisition to collection afterwards. Recommended for ages 7-10, 4 stars.

The Door in the Mountain

The Door in the Mountain

The Door in the Mountain by Caitlin Sweet

To be published: Oct 21, 2014


The book is the first of a two-part series about Minos’s Labyrinth and the Minotaur. Ariadne is the daughter of King Minos and Queen Pasiphae of Crete during the Minoan era. She is not godmarked like the rest of her family, and is especially resentful of her younger brother Asterion. He is her mother’s favorite as he favors the god Poseidon and can transform into the Minotaur (who the local populace worship as a god) when fire is near. Ariadne is always being left behind and ignored so she decides to plot with her father to get rid of Asterion by locking him away inside of a mountain and getting the great inventor Daedalus to build a labyrinth to contain him. Chara, a slave girl, who grows up with Asterion and is his only friend. She watches Ariadne and her scheming from behind the scenes as Ariadne’s personal slave.

Honestly when I first read the description for this book, I thought “It seems like a Percy Jackson rip-off”, and there are some similarities. The story was very very slow-moving and I almost lost interest in finishing it. In a way, you almost feel sorry for Ariadne. However, she brings a lot of her hardships down on her own head with all the scheming for power and control.  Although I didn’t like her character, it was interesting to see how she became bitter, resentful, and cruel, which ultimately leads to her downfall. I really felt bad for Asterion who ended up being the pawn in the manipulations of his mother, sister and step-father.  I also felt bad for Icarus as he was always pining after Ariadne, who was completely not worth his time, and also because he was godmarked to almost fly but not very successfully. However it evident from the text that the author has really done her research into Minoan history and culture, which is something I always like and appreciate. The reader is transported back to Bronze Age Crete and I could just imagine the costumes of the royalty, especially the princess as she did the bull dance. The only thing I would have liked is a glossary of names at the front of the book as all of the names were Greek and got rather confusing after awhile. Recommended for ages 15+, 3-1/2 stars.

Disclaimer: I received this advanced reader’s copy book from the publisher, via Netgalley, in exchange for my honest review.

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