Once a year I have a toddler/early walker story time session. It’s always the January/February session which allows me to schlep to the library in winter weather and not be late. Every year I balk at it. Today I didn’t want to do it. I just didn’t.
Then, a sweet toddler (must be 15 months) named M walked in. As soon as I sat down, M was right there…touching my knee next to me the whole time. The power of touch is an amazing thing and M melted my little heart. I love this age, why am I balking? (A possible answer is that I do this age so rarely that I simply forget how much it feeds my soul. So I’m writing it down.)
Miss Mouse, Miss Mouse
Come Out, Come Out, Come Out!
That cheer is heard weekly at the library where I work. Miss Mouse (MM), our story time mascot, has been attending story time for more than 25 years. (When I started they said more than 20 years — and that was in 1997. Like any girl, Miss Mouse doesn’t reveal her true age.) Actually, that isn’t true, Miss Mouse has her own written biography: she is five years old, silly,and a little bit shy. She lives in a wicker basket with her friend Whiskers and loves cheese: cheese crackers, cheese cake, cheese balls. And… she has a better wardrobe than I do.
Let’s get back to that cheer. Miss Mouse attends every preschool story time in our library (and lately even they play Where is Miss Mouse Hiding? in the Early Walker story time).
Each story time is opened by a visit with Miss Mouse. After our opening song, Miss Mouse comes out and tells a joke or somehow introduces our loosely based themes. Unfortunately, almost every story time, Miss Mouse isn’t in her basket. Rather, she is hiding behind some felt pieces (flowers, farm animals, whatever relates to the stories for that week). Before we look for her, I review the elements on the flannel board (we limit it to 8 pieces)… Then I ask for advice on where we should look, hoping they do not get the right guess the first time. It helps if everyone is yelling a different answer… as the story teller, pick the one you like. We say the cheer quoted above, then I’ll ask, “Miss Mouse, are you hiding behind the _____?” She isn’t. From this point on, I give them choices avoiding the one item she is hiding behind (would you like the green flower or the blue flower?). Depending on the crowd, I might check two items at once.
Once the flannel Miss Mouse is found, it’s time to take her out of her basket. With her back to the audience, I adjust her outfit and ask everyone count to three. We all say, “Hello Miss Mouse.” She turns around does her “thing” and then it’s time for her to go. She blows lots of kisses and goes back to her basket. (For more on what Miss Mouse might do during her time with us, see my specific story time posts plans throughout this blog. You can search story time plans as a category.)
There are days when I think I know what Miss Mouse is going to say. I plan it out, especially if she is telling a joke. Then there are days when I have no idea and just sort of wing it. Miss Mouse never actually speaks to the audience, she is entirely too shy for that… instead she speaks to the story teller’s ear and we relay it. Also, another Miss Mouse rule: she must always, always, always be fully clothed. If she has a robe or raincoat on: something has to be on underneath it. Something happened once years ago, we never speak of it, but she must be fully clothed. (I think she was just out of the bath and in a robe and a child pointed out Miss Mouse was naked — the details are foggy.) Occasionally, someone a little older and new to Miss Mouse will say, “she’s a puppet.” We cover Miss Mouse’s ears and whisper, “shh, she doesn’t know that.”
One more thing, the children of our community have grown up thinking that famous nursery rhyme is said:
Hickory Dickory Dock, Miss Mouse ran up the clock
the clock struck one, Miss Mouse ran down
Hickory Dickory Dock
Initially, I was very intimidated by the Mouse. It felt like a lot of responsibility, but I’m happy to say she has always been very easy to work with. We train each story teller with the in’s and out’s of MM. Training includes reading her biography, knowing the rules (never, ever let a child open her basket), and practicing on Miss Mouse’s friends (several puppets were made there is Pink Bunny, Raspberry Mouse (she isn’t blue, she’s Raspberry), and others).
Project Fashion Mouse
In 2008, with the purchase of my sewing machine, I thought it was time for some new clothes for Miss Mouse. This would help me learn to sew (!!!) while getting some new clothes for MM. She is pretty small (the width of your hand) and does not fit most doll clothes. We’ve made our own in the past, but the person who used to do that retired in 2005. Luckily, a co-worker knows how to look at a dress and create a pattern from it. After several attempts, I successfully made her a dress. We thought about it and decided it would be fun to create a contest to get more clothes for Miss Mouse.
Project Fashion Mouse was born.
We invited patrons of all ages and skill levels to pick up a pattern and create an outfit (accessories welcome) for Miss Mouse. At the end of the six weeks, we put together a Look Book where patrons could vote for their favorite designs. We had three winners: patron winner, staff winner (we opened it up to our talented staff members), and librarian’s choice (our favorite outfit). The winners all received a gift certificate to the local quilt shop (more fabric). It was a wonderful success, and we have about 20 new outfits! Project Fashion Mouse
Once a year I rotate to the Early Walker storytime. This is for any child under 24 months who is walking. The infant storytime is for those not walking. We don’t really use “themes” in this storytime, we have a formula and insert materials based on that formula (eg: song, flannel, story, finger, story, song, finger, flannel). Although today could be organized to mittens and jungle animals.
attendance: 22, 11 toddlers with 11 parental units — the youngest 11 months, the oldest 22 months
Opening song and bubbles
Opening Song: Clap Hello to (insert name) Miss Mouse Hides behind Mittens Flannel: I’ll be wearing two warm mittens (We have a cardboard Bert from Sesame Street that we use for the song “All dressed up and ready to go“. For this age, we just talk about what Bert needs to get dressed then we sing a little ditty: He’s wearing two red boots to go outside, yes he’s wearing two red boots to go outside, oh he’s wearing two red boots, yes he’s wearing two red boots, oh he’s wearing two red boots to go outside” Red rat, warm coat, blue mittens, etc. ) Mother Goose: Little Boy Blue Finger: Roll Roll Sugar Babies Book:Animal Surprise by Gunson Prop: If I was a Bird music with puppets If I was a bird I’d flap my wings all day (elephant, cheetah, snake, monkey) Finger: Two Little Blackbirds Book:Hug by Alborough Finger:
Song with prop: There’s a dog on my … book:Big Little by Sami Song: Jack Be Nimble playtime Goodbye song: My Hand Says Thank you