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.
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.
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.
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.