Review: Music Together’s Two Little Blackbirds & Hey, Diddle, Diddle

I recently received copies of a few new books created by the folks at Music Together. Known for their music classes for young children and their families, they have also been retelling traditional songs in picture book format, called Singalong Storybooks. Along with the books, Music Together includes recordings of the songs. Each book comes with a code for a free MP3 download or the songs can be listened to online here. What a great way to support the early literacy practices of reading and singing! Two of their latest books focus on songs familiar to many and the accompanying quality illustrations bring valuable context and meaning to the lyrics.

Two Little Blackbirds (Music Together, 2015)
Two Little Blackbirds is a simple and repetitive song from the 18th Century about a couple of birds, perfect for sharing with young children. In this retelling Jack and Jill are parents with young birds at home in the nest. Jack and Jill “fly away” to get food and “come back” to feed their babies. The text is easy to read and is nicely nested in the cheery illustrations that feel like collage, but are most likely digital. The images, many of which are double page spreads, offer both intimate views of the birds in the tree and a broader look at the surrounding landscape.

Two Little Blackbirds by Music Together (Photo Source: Amazon.com)

Two Little Blackbirds (by Music Together (Photo Source: Amazon.com)

The beauty of this book is found in the pages at the back which are as valuable as the actual story. At the back of the book, readers will find tips on how to share books, and in particular Two Little Blackbirds, with young children. These suggested activities extend the enjoyment and learning experience that the book offers and provide opportunities for families to explore the book in a variety of ways beyond reading the text or singing the lyrics. This addition to the book reminds me of the “10 Ways to Explore a Book” posters we’ve been making at our library.

Two Little Blackbirds Activity Pages (Photo Source: Amazon.com)

Two Little Blackbirds Activity Pages (Photo Source: Amazon.com)

The variations tip reminds me of the many additional verses to this song Dana and Lindsey, the Jbrarians, have recorded for librarians looking for storytime songs. Need suggestions for variations? Check out Jbrary’s YouTube recording.

Hey, Diddle, Diddle (Music Together, 2015)

Did you know that the fantastical song about a cow jumping over the moon first published in the Tales of Mother Goose (1765) is actually about a troupe of characters including a cow, a little dog, a dish and a spoon practicing for a play? So goes the Music Together retelling and it works, well in fact. The catchy song is made more memorable with colorful and humorous illustrations played out on mostly double-paged spreads. The text fits nicely into spaces purposely left in the images and is again easy to read in this book, demonstrating Music Together’s consistency.

Hey Diddle Diddle by Music Together (Photo Source: Amazon.com)

Hey Diddle Diddle by Music Together (Photo Source: Amazon.com)

Many of the activities at the back of this book are designed to get families moving and connecting with the story and song in a physical way, perfect for many preschoolers. Pretending to fiddle when the lyrics describe the cat fiddling, for example, is a simple way to engage young children. Along with the tips, each book includes the origins, or what is known of them, for each song which may be of interest to adults.

Verdict: These two new Singalong Storybook titles would be good additions to home and library collections for their high early literacy value.

Toddler Storytime: Animal Heroes

Monty's Magnificent Mane by Gemma O'Neill (Photo source: Amazon.com)

Monty’s Magnificent Mane by Gemma O’Neill (Photo Source: Amazon.com)

To continue this week’s storytime theme, I read a book about animal heroes to the toddlers and babies (and caregivers). I held on to Monty’s Magnificent Mane by Gemma O’Neill (Candlewick, 2015) after the the family storytime and read it again today. Not all books about heroes resonate with this younger audience, but this one did. I think part of its appeal is the artwork, which is beautiful, colorful and nicely expresses the text of the story about friendship and courage in a very whimsical way. Using mixed media and collage, O’Neill produces a crocodile, for example, just scary enough to create a mood without being the stuff nightmares are made of. This double page spread offers an interesting perspective:

Monty's Magnificent Mane: at the watering hole (Photo source: Candlewick.com)

Monty’s Magnificent Mane: at the watering hole (Photo Source: Candlewick.com)

The book’s text also played nicely with the early literacy tip of the week because words like magnificent, mane and meerkat are fabulous words not often included in day to day conversation.

Weekly Early Literacy Tip:
Having a rich vocabulary will help growing readers decode words and to understand what they will read. Reading books helps grow young children’s vocabulary because books often include words we don’t use in everyday conversation. If you come across a word that is new to your child explain it. When talking with your little one, use the real names of things. Avoid replacing unfamiliar words with familiar ones.

Several of the songs and rhymes I chose are familiar and work well with the diverse group I often have. Babies to toddlers can join in. I chose a couple songs about opposites to go along with the large and small opposite represented by the lion and meerkats in today’s story.

Welcome: The More We Get (Read) Together (with ASL)

Action Song: Dance Your Fingers
Dance your fingers up, up high
Dance your fingers down, down low.
Dance your fingers side to side and dance them all around.
Dance them on your shoulders.
Dance them on your head.
Dance them on your tummy,
And put them all to bed!

Action Rhyme: I am Big
I am big, big, big (stretch hands far to sides)
I am small, small, small (crouch down)
I am short, short, short (stay low)
I am tall, tall, tall (reach for the sky)
I am fast, fast, fast (roll hands or march quickly)
I am slow, slow, slow (roll hands or march slowly)
I say yes, yes, yes (nod head)
And sometimes no, no, no (shake head)

After our story (or stories depending on the length and audience attention span), we always pop and play with bubbles. Bubbles is often a little one’s first library word!

Bubbles!

Action Song: Going to Kentucky (with shakers)
We’re going to Kentucky.
We’re going to the fair,
to see the senorita with the flowers in her hair.
Oh, shake it, shake it, shake it.
Shake it all you can.
Shake it like a milkshake,
and do the best you can.
Rhumba to the bottom,
and rhumba to the top.
Turn around and turn around until I holler stop!

Closing (Action) Song: If You’re Happy and You Know It (with shakers)
If you’re happy and you know it give a shake.
If you’re happy and you know it give a shake.
If you’re happy and you know it and you really want to show it.
If you’re happy and you know it give a shake.

If you’re happy and you know it give a clap.
(Clap shaker against palm.)

If you’re happy and you know it give a tap.
(Tap shaker on the floor.)

If you’re happy and you know it do all three.
(Shake, shake, clap, clap, tap, tap)

Toddler: Jump!

We explored animals that jump this week. It was a great opportunity to mix and match some seemingly unrelated books and lots of movement. Here’s what we did!

Early Literacy Tip of the Day:
When you read to your child, run your finger under the printed words to help her/him know that it is the text you are reading, not the pictures. This helps kids know text has meaning.
For more easy to use tips like this one, check out the The Early Literacy Kit by Saroj Ghoting (Every Child Ready to Read) and Betsy Diamant-Cohen (Mother Goose on the Loose), both of whom I finally met in person at the #alsc2014 conference.

Welcome Song: The More We Get (Read) Together
(I start singing this as I pass out the day’s information sheets)
The more we get together
together, together
The more we get together
the happier we’ll be!
For your friends are my friends and my friends are your friends,
The more we get together the happier we’ll be.

The more we read together, together, together
The more we read together
the happier we’ll be.
We’ll read big books and small books (with hand motion)
and short books and tall books
The more we read together the happier we’ll be.
Credit: Jbrary

I just came across a version of the first verse with sign language which I’ll be using next week. Check out Holly Jin’s video (Skokie Public Library)!

Fingerplay: Open Shut Them

Movement: Monkey See, Monkey Do (I used this last week and repeated it to make a connection between storytimes and include an opportunity to talk about the importance of repetition.)
Monkey see, monkey do
Little monkey in the zoo
Monkey, monkey, in the tree
Can you jump around like me?
(…swing your tail…clap your hands…nod your head…sit down…)

One little one pointed out that we don’t have tails as we swung our pretend tails which gave us a chance to talk about similarities and differences!

Book: Pouch by David Ezra Stein (this is a book many families receive as participants in the local Imagination Library program so it is well-loved by little ones.)

Pouch by David Ezra Credit: http://davidezra.com

Pouch by David Ezra Stein Credit: http://davidezra.com

Movement: Jumping and Counting by Jim Gill (Irrational Anthem album)

Fingerplay: Two Little Frogs (using thumbs as frogs)
Two little frogs sitting on a hill,
One named Jack and one named Jill.
“Jump,” said Jack. “Jump,” said Jill.
And they both jumped down the great big hill. (“jump” thumbs down towards floor)
Come back, Jack. Come back, Jill.
And the both jumped up the great big hill. (“jump” thumbs up towards ceiling)
Credit:Storytime Katie

Book: The Croakey Poakey! by Ethan Long

This book works well with kids that need to move as they listen. It has a funny and unexpected ending!

Croakey Pokey by Ethan Long Credit: http://scholastic.com

Croakey Pokey by Ethan Long Credit: http://scholastic.com

Movement: Bubbles!

Movement: Jump Around the Rosie (adapted)
Jump around the rosie
Pocket full of posies
Ashes, ashes, we all fall down!

The cows are in the meadow
Eating buttercups
Thunder, lightning,
We all jump up!
(repeat in other direction)

Goodbye Rhyme: Wave Hi, Wave low