What can I read this summer?

Did you know you can read anything you want to for summer reading?!?  You don’t have to read books that follow the theme (Every Hero has a Story), however there are some you’ll want to read just because of the theme!

Take a look at these . . .

hoot owl

Hoot Owl, Master of Disguise

Author Sean Taylor and Illustrator Jean Jullien have paired together to write this hilarious, mischievous, and even ridiculous story about an owl who disguises himself to catch his prey.  Somehow they all get away.  Will he ever get anything to eat?  Beware if you are an animal of the night!



There are lots of important trucks in the city, but the garbage truck?!?  All he does is collect the trash . . . until one evening it snows and snows and snows, and the garbage truck sneaks into a garage and comes out as . . . SUPERTRUCK!  He plows out the entire city.  The next day all the other trucks wonder, who could that truck be?!?

shake to assemble

Shake to Assemble

Avengers fans, this one is for you!  You tap, shake, blow, push, swipe and more to assemble this popular group of superheroes.  When they are finally together, you help clap and cheer their mission . . .  Avengers Assemble!

       timothy    Timothy and the Strong Pajamas

Timothy loves his raggedy, patchy pajamas!  When his mother suggests that he get a new pair, he protests.  The stores only sell NEW ones, not FAVORITE ones.  So his mother fixes them for him–she uses the strongest thread, sturdy patches and adds on six red buttons.  He trots to bed and as he opens his bedroom door, he pulls it right off the hinges!  His mother fixed his pajamas so well that they are now Super Strong Pajamas and he has super strength!  He decides to use his power to help people, so he rescues an elephant, a princess, some sailors, a zookeeper and even a kitten.  But when HE needs help, who can he turn to?  Keep a good eye on your pjs!


Fortunately, the Milk

The kids needed milk for their cereal and since Mum was away at a conference, it was up to Dad to get the milk.  This hilarious adventure is just the kind of thing that might happen to any parent making a run to the grocery store, or at least you might be able to convince your kids like this father did!  The story is expertly told by Newbery Award winner Neil Gaiman and illustrated with cartoon-type drawings by Skottie Young.  You’ll want to read this more than once just to catch all that happens.

Happy reading!

By Kathy, CLP –  Main, Children’s Dept.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Be a Hero: Fight the Summer Slide!

Sign up for Summer Reading!In the long, muggy months of summer, a grave danger lies in wait, lurking behind the lull of picnics and swimming pools and fireworks.

Who is this nefarious villain, waiting in the shadows to sap the smarts from the brains of kids?


The Summer Slide is the alias of the dreaded SUMMER LEARNING LOSS, which chips away at children’s hard-earned skills during idle months away from the classroom. Research has steadily shown that students score lower on standardized tests at the start of the new school year than they do on the same tests just before summer vacation begins. To make matters worse, kids from low-income families are more susceptible to the effects of summer learning loss because of lesser access to engaging learning opportunities during the summer months.

How can we fight the threat of this fearsome foe? What’s the best way for kids to resist the effects of the summer slide?

You guessed it: READING. Reading alone. Reading together. Reading anything, anytime, anywhere.

Reading in the summer helps children retain the literacy skills they’ve built during the school year, keeping their minds sharp and strong, ready for the challenges ahead. All parents want their kids to enjoy the carefree summer days of childhood, but it’s all too easy to underestimate the power of the summer slide.

Super Summer Reading heroes fighting the summer slide at the library.

Super Summer Reading heroes fighting the summer slide at the library.

Luckily, the public library is an awesome ally in the battle against summer learning loss. The Summer Reading program encourages readers to log the books they complete in exchange for cool prizes all summer long. Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh offers Summer Reading programs for kids, teens, and adults. And as always, the Library is packed with learning opportunities for people of all ages. Check the events page to find activities at a library near you to keep your brain engaged in HEROIC learning.

There’s not a moment to lose…be a hero and sign up for Summer Reading today!

– Maggie, CLP- Carrick

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

What’s the buzz? Fun books about bees and butterflies!

On May 19, 2015, President Obama announced a federal initiative to protect and promote the health of honey bees and other important pollinators.  The National Strategy to Promote the Health of Honey Bees and Other Pollinators plans to turn federally owned open spaces into feeding sites for bees and butterflies.  By planting a variety of flowers in these open spaces, Obama and the Pollinator Health Task Force hope to see a resurgence in bee and butterfly populations.

Through a federal survey, beekeepers reported a loss of more than 40% of hives this past year.  Many scientists believe honey bee decline is caused by a variety of factors including parasites like the Varroa mite, pesticides, and habitat loss.  This is big news because honey bees and native bees like the bumble bee, pollinate many of the foods we enjoy. Imagine your plate without blueberries, apples, broccoli, tomatoes, almonds, and more! Dinnertime suddenly seems a little less colorful and really boring!

As a beekeeper, I love to share my admiration of the bee with children and their families whenever I get a chance.  During storytime we count felt bees and read Sergio Ruzzier’s Bear and Bee.  While watering and harvesting herbs during our Little Green Thumbs programs, I try to point out the colorful pollinators we find in the Library garden.  Here at CLP – Squirrel Hill, we’ve had school-age programs featuring silkworms, as well as butterfly rearing.  Incorporating the natural world into programming is fun, easy, and inspiring for both children and grown-ups alike. So what can you do to help our bee and butterfly friends?  Plant native wildflowers (including milkweed–the only source of food for Monarch caterpillars!) and read these great books!

          -By Jessica, CLP – Squirrel Hill

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

STEM: All Hands on Tech!

iPads, Apps, Bee-Bots, Squishy Circuits and more!  The Library is a wonderful place to explore technology.

ipad photo

iPads are being used in a variety of ways inside libraries around the city.  Through programs like Storytime, Super Science and Kids Club, children and families have the opportunity to interact with carefully chosen websites and apps. Librarians often share apps that reinforce STEM learning by encouraging curiosity, observation skills, matching and memory.

You don’t have to be a computer programmer to learn how to code through our STEM Super Science: Robots program. Kids in grades K-5 have the opportunity to problem solve and practice sequencing and estimation skills while having fun interacting with Bee-Bots.

beebotKids can learn about electronics through the exploration of Squishy Circuits.  By using a special Play-doh-like material, Squishy Circuits empowers kids to create circuits and instantly see the results through colorful lights.

Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh features technology learning opportunities like these in many locations around Pittsburgh. Visit our Events page to find more STEM programs at the library!

By Mary Beth – Children’s Services Coordinator

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

What do you do, dear? (Or how my research changed from books on manners to chapbooks)

This is a little different type of post here on Story Pockets, less about working with children and more about messing around with books. I hope you enjoy reading about my adventures in historical children’s literature.


“There once was a boy named Pierre, who only said, ‘I don’t care.'” (Maurice Sendak, Pierre) Words to music so often stay in our minds long after mere words go away. This is the first line of a song from the television show Really Rosie,” which was aired in February of 1975. I never saw the show, but my grandmother sent me the soundtrack album, and it soon became the soundtrack to my life. I could probably sing all of the songs by memory to you right here, if pressed. rosiesdoor In all of my imaginings, I never would have guessed that a record album sent to me by my grandmother would be so important to me almost forty years later. Let me tell you a little bit more. “Really Rosie” is based on five books by Maurice Sendak. The first book is The Sign on Rosie’s Door, and the remaining four books make up a set called the Nutshell Library: Pierre, One was Johnny, Alligators All Around, and Chicken Soup with Rice. The Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh does not own the Nutshell library in one set, but if you type the phrase “Nutshell Library” into the Classic Catalog as a title, all four books come up, and you can order them one by one. The set by itself is adorable, let me tell you, and its adorableness got me in a lot of trouble, by and by. chicken soupone was johnnyalligatorspierre In 2013, I received the Bechtel Fellowship from the American Library Association’s Children’s division, ALSC, to study historical children’s literature at the University of Florida. I thought I was going there to study books about manners, since that is what I wrote on my research proposal. To prepare for the fellowship,  I did research on such contemporary manners books as, What do you say, dear? and What do you do, dear? Undoubtedly, it was those two irreverent titles, both illustrated by Maurice Sendak, that got me on the track I followed instead: writing about Mr. Sendak and his connection with chapbooks. I can hear you now, asking me, “What’s a chapbook?” Let me give you a quick definition:  Chapbooks, cheap pamphlet type books, were made in the 18th and 19th centuries and sold from town to town by chapmen, who were traveling peddlers. These are not to be confused with poetry chapbooks, which is a whole other kettle of fish. what do you saywhat do you do One day while I was in Florida, I looked at the chapbooks about manners that I’d been studying in one hand and The Nutshell Library in the other, and a light bulb went off. You can read more about the ensuing hijinks in my article that was published last month in Children and Libraries. by Suzi, Downtown & Business

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

BAM! POW! READ your way into Kids Summer Reading with these great books!

Heroes and heroines come in a variety of shapes and sizes–from community helpers to Batman, you can find a hero with a story to tell (and a book to share) almost anywhere you look!  This year, Summer Reading is all about the heroes and heroines that inhabit our everyday lives and imaginations.  Check out these heroic books at your Library while you sign-up for Kids Summer Reading.

Supertruck by Stephen Savage

For the youngest Library goers, Stephen Savage’s new book, Supertruck  (Ages 2-6), tells the story of a city garbage truck with a heroic super power all his own.  When the city is hit by a blizzard and buried deep under the snow, Supertruck plows in and saves the day!  With its simplistic text and charismatic illustrations, Supertruck makes for a great read aloud.

Ten Rules of Being a Superhero by Deb Pilutti

In Ten Rules of Being a Superhero (Ages 4-7) by Deb Pilutti, a young boy lists the most important rules of being a superhero when he plays sidekick to his beloved Captain Magma action figure.  Filled with humorous illustrations and insightful advice, this guide is a must-read for any superhero in training.

Not all princesses wear pink all of the time.  Meet Princess Magnolia; part pretty in pink, part Princess in Black!  The Princess in Black  (Ages 5-8) by Shannon & Dean Hale is a story about a not-so-ordinary princess with super powers and super skills.  For example, she can stop nasty monsters in their tracks with ninja moves like the Princess Pounce!  Turning the princess genre on its head, The Princess in Black stars a strong, smart, and adventurous young heroine capable of saving her kingdom.

The Princess in Black by Shannon & Dean Hale

The 2015 Newbery honor award winner, El Deafo (Ages 8-12) by Cece Bell, explores many common themes of growing up, but with a twist.  The graphic novel is based on the author’s own experiences of losing her hearing at a young age, and what its like to live with the Phonic Ear (Cece’s not-so-easy to hide hearing aid).  Cece Bell poignantly describes what is feels like to be “different,” with humor and spunk.  Read El Deafo to find out how Cece uses the Phonic Ear to transform herself into a superhero.

El Deafo by Cece Bell

Every hero has a story–what’s yours?

by Jessica, CLP – Squirrel Hill

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Summer Reading EXTRAVAGANZA!

As May turns to June and another school year comes to a close, public libraries are preparing for the busiest season of the year. The annual Summer Reading program fills Pittsburgh libraries with readers tracking books to win prizes and participating in extra-special library activities. As we prepare to launch another awesome summer of reading, Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh kicks off the fun by hosting a giant outdoor festival at CLP- Main in Oakland.

This year’s 15th Annual Summer Reading Extravaganza will take place on Sunday, June 7th from 12-5 PM. Kids, teens and adults can enjoy this super outdoor festival with music, crafts, games and… books!


Here’s a sample of some of the great things you can do at this year’s Extravaganza:

  • Sign up for Summer Reading and get your materials that day
  • Enjoy live performances, interactive storytimes and puppet shows
  • Rock out with The Labs and play fun CLP Readers Games
  • Learn about the exciting things you can do all over town this summer with Pittsburgh City of Learning
  • Browse the annual book sale
  • Try your hand at science experiments
  • Personalize a Smiley Cookie with Eat ‘n Park
  • Support your Library by purchasing food from the featured food trucks
  • Try your hand at gardening, cooking, robots, learning a new language and so much more!

Extravaganza is held rain or shine and no registration is required. Don’t miss one of Pittsburgh’s best family festivals of the year. Join us on Sunday, June 7th and help us kick off an awesome summer of learning.

-Maggie, CLP- Carrick

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Stories Alive: Annual Spring Puppet Show – “The Three Billy Goats Gruff”

It’s May!  Time once again for the Annual Puppet Show at the Children’s Department at CLP-Main.

This year we present “The Three Billy Goats Gruff,”a story about three hungry goats who are hoping to eat the tender green grasses that grow in the meadow on the other side of the bridge. But the bridge is guarded by a mean, hungry Troll with stinky fish breath. He will not let them pass! The three clever goats are not about to let the Troll stop them, so they find a way to trick the Troll and cross the bridge.

The cast of the Annual Puppet Show at CLP - Main. Lars

The cast of the Annual Puppet Show at CLP – Main: the brave brothers, Lars, Leif and Colby Gruff, and the Troll.

All throughout the month of April, Children’s Librarians in the Children’s Department at CLP-Main had lots of fun practicing lines and getting ready to share this exciting story with our visitors. At our first performance, children and their grownups cheered as Lars, Leif, and Colby Gruff were able to fool the Troll and make their way over the bridge and into the meadow.

The Three Billy Goats Gruff

The Three Billy Goats Gruff

Performances run throughout the month of May – you can find the schedule here. In addition, there will be five performances during our Summer Reading Extravaganza on June 7th.  If you are coming to Extravaganza and would like to see the show, please try to attend one of the early performances, as the later shows are usually full and we don’t want you to miss it.

Hope to see you at Main, either for a scheduled performance in May or at Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh’s Summer Reading Extravaganza on June 7th!

By Nonie, CLP-Main, Children’s Department

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

El día de los niños/El día de los libros (Children’s Day/Book Day)

El día de los niños/El día de los libros (Children’s Day/Book Day) is a celebration of childhood and literature, and it’s no wonder that the two go hand-in-hand given the importance of early literacy development in young children.

Children’s Day began in 1925 during the “World Conference for the Well-being of Children” in Geneva, Switzerland.  After the conference, Mexico and many other Latin American countries began celebrating El día de los niños, or Children’s Day, every year on April 30th.

In 1996, children’s author Pat Mora helped to bring El día de los niños to the United States.  Mora wanted to celebrate the well-being of children everywhere, while highlighting the importance of multiculturalism and bilingualism, thus El día de los niños/El día de los libros (Children’s Day/Book Day) was born!

Book Fiesta! by Pat Mora

With support from organizations such as REFORMA, as well as enthusiastic librarians and teachers, the first El día de los niños/El día de los libros celebrations were held in Santa Fe, New Mexico, Tucson, Arizona, and El Paso and Austin, Texas on April 30, 1997.  By 2004, El día de los niños/El día de los libros was embraced by the Association for Library Service to Children (ALSC) and became Día! Diversity in Action.

Día is a national initiative committed to connecting children and their families to books and programs featuring a diversity of people, languages, and cultures.  The Association for Library Service to Children (ALSC) offers a variety of information and resources to promote Día in libraries, classrooms, and homes across the country.  For free bilingual booklists and activities you can visit their website.

In an ever growing and changing world, libraries continue to play a vital role in advocating literacy and multicultural awareness.  The Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh offers books in a wide array of languages, as well as programs and other resources for children and adults to learn new languages.

This summer several Carnegie Library locations will begin a pilot program featuring bilingual storytimes in a variety of languages.  During storytime, children, parents, and caregivers will celebrate our city’s diverse culture while exploring books, songs, and action rhymes in English and one other language.  Stay tuned for more information about this exciting new program!

by Jessica, CLP – Squirrel Hill

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Chapter Books – Not just for reading alone

I Survived the Shark Attacks of 1916 by Lauren Tarshis

I Survived the Shark Attacks of 1916 by Lauren Tarshis

When my colleagues and I visit classrooms for the BLAST program, we usually only have about 45 minutes with each group. That’s probably why we always stuck to reading picture books, even with the older 3rd, 4th, and 5th graders. Which is completely fine! There are a ton of amazing picture books written for the upper elementary audience.

Charlie Bumpers vs. The Teacher of the Year by Bill Harley

Charlie Bumpers vs. The Teacher of the Year by Bill Harley

A few years ago one of our teachers suggested that we try throwing a chapter book into the mix. It was a great idea but we had some concerns; how would the kids react if we only read part of the story? Would they finish reading on their own? We decided the best way to find out was by giving it a try.

Here’s what we learned: Reading chapter books together is awesome!

Frank Einstein and the Antimatter Motor by Jon Scieszka

Frank Einstein and the Antimatter Motor by Jon Scieszka

Whether you are a librarian/educator or a parent, don’t be afraid to pull chapter books away from solitary reading and make them a more social experience.

“When I was growing up, I oddly enough looked forward to long car rides with my family while en route to our summer vacation spots.  This was thanks to my mother, an avid lover of books, who picked chapter books to read aloud to us on the drive.  She would always pick a book that would entertain and interest all 6 of us in some way, which lead to some pretty cool family discussions.  While an audio book is always nice for a reader on the road, our version allowed for us to have family time and connect to each other while enjoying a good read.”        –Dani, BLAST School Outreach Specialist

The Iron Giant by Ted Hughes

The Iron Giant by Ted Hughes

With classes or larger groups of kids, you can treat the read aloud as a “teaser” for the book. During BLAST programs, we typically only read 15-30 pages, sometimes starting at the beginning of the book and other times choosing an exciting part further into the story. We pause along the way, asking questions and encouraging open dialog. We always try to end on an especially dramatic part. I’ve been know to add a “duh DUH DUUUUHHHH” before closing the book, to which most classes respond with “Awwwwwwwww.” It’s a sure sign that the kids are hooked and likely to continue reading to find out what happens next.

Fortunately, The Milk by Neil Gaiman

Fortunately, The Milk by Neil Gaiman

I’ve included the books that BLAST has used so far. They have all been a huge hit with kids from across the city. I Survived The Shark Attacks of 1916 by Lauren Tarshis, Charlie Bumpers vs. The Teacher of the Year by Bill Harley, and Frank Einstein and the Antimatter Motor by Jon Scieszka are great series (or soon-to-be series) books, allowing kids to continue the story beyond the first book. The Iron Giant by Ted Hughes is a quicker read, but still filled with excitement and friendship. And Neil Gaiman’s Fortunately, The Milk is so goofy and action-packed our kids have been eating it up!

by Bonny – CLP, BLAST

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment