As shown by this librarian’s creative use of Shark Vs. Train as a tool for teaching about elections (be sure to click through so you can see the downloadable materials she kindly shared with the world):

I went back and forth a lot as to whether I should put something in the Story Action Pod about the election. I’ve heard of other libraries doing Vote-for-Characters, such as Best Bear in a book or something; I’m sure that works for them, but I just couldn’t get excited about it.

So I decided to create a Story Action Pod based on a book that kids could use to make an informed opinion in one sitting: Shark vs Train by Chris Barton and Tom Lichtenheld.

If you don’t have this book in your collection, you should probably get it immediately. We have 2 copies that are ALWAYS OUT, except for today, so I could check it out, because it’s a Shark vs. Train miracle.

As always, I set up the book with directions for voting and the ballot (located below for easy download). Then, my coworker created some awesome “I Voted Today” stickers. Suddenly, this idea had a trifecta of Kid Friendly Things:
1) Sharks
2) Trains
3) Stickers


But also, sadly, as shown by what happens when you don’t read (or at least don’t take to heart) one of my favorite picture books ever, Daniel Pinkwater’s The Big Orange Splot. As summed up by Tanya at

Mr Plumbean buys some paint and fixes up his roof (and whole house) in the middle of the night because that is when it is cooler. The neighbors awake to quite a surprise. Mr Plumbean’s paint job only inspires him to get more creative in the cool of the night, adding a clocktower, baobab and palm trees, a hammock and an alligator. Then Mr Plumbean settles into his new oasis to enjoy a pitcher of lemonade.

The neighborhood is in an orderly uproar and they ask Mr Plumbean’s next door neighbor to go and talk to him. The two share a pitcher of lemonade under the palm trees in the cool of the evening. The next morning the man has transformed his house saying, “My house is me and I am it. My house is where I like to be and it looks like all my dreams.” The uproar continues, as does the change in perspective as various neighbors try to reason with Mr Plumbean.

By the end of the book the whole street is transformed and ends with these words:

Whenever a stranger came to the street of Mr Plumbean and his neighbors, the stranger would say, “This is not a neat street.” Then all the people would say, “our street is us and we are it. Our street is where we like to be, and it looks like all our dreams.

Contrast that with this article from yesterday’s Austin American-Statesman:

Nicholas Aarsvold, 9, does what little boys do: Play in the woods, throw rocks in the creek and build stuff.

However, his latest creation, a small “fort” nestled between two nandina shrubs in front of his Northwest Hills townhome, is causing a stir with some neighbors who believe it’s unsightly.

Nicholas’s fort violates the architectural rules set by the Summerwood Homeowners Association, said Stan Scheiber, the managing agent for the community of 136 townhomes near Steck Avenue, west of MoPac Boulevard. On Thursday, the association’s board of directors voted to send Ramona Aarsvold, the boy’s mother, a letter giving her 10 days to take the structure down.

“That would be the wrong thing to do,” Aarsvold told the Statesman earlier in the week. “I don’t want to punish Nicholas’ creativity or squelch his spirit.”

Aarsvold said she’s unsure what to do now.

Might I suggest a neighborhood readaloud?