Music Smart

Abiyoyo and Abiyoyo Returns

Posted by on Oct 24, 2012 in Art, Early Learning, Holiday, Integrating Knowledge and Ideas, Music Smart, People Smart, Song Books, Technology | 0 comments

It’s almost Halloween, and you want a book to share with your students that will give them shivers, but not nightmares. Pull out these picture books about a scary giant and the clever little boy who defeats him, and you’ll be hitting the Common Core State Standard of Integrating Knowledge and Ideas while you thrill your listeners.

Inspired by a South African folktale, Abiyoyo is a storysong written by the folk music master Pete Seeger and illustrated by Michael Hays.  A little boy is always in trouble for making noise with his music. His father is shunned by the neighbors for playing too many pranks, making things disappear with his magic wand. But when fearful Abiyoyo comes, the little boy sings until the giant falls down from dancing, and the father uses his magic wand to make Abiyoyo disappear.

Compare this classic to its sequel, Abiyoyo Returns written by Pete Seeger and Paul DuBois Jacobs, and illustrated by Michael Hays. The little boy who made Abiyoyo disappear is now a grown man, and his town needs a giant’s help. With the help of the magic wand, Abiyoyo returns and the townspeople teach him to help rather than to harm.

There’s a terrific “Reading Rainbow” video of Pete Seeger telling/singing the first book (available for free on Youtube) and an audio cd available as well. Share the audio recording of  Abiyoyo along with the book so your students can listen to a master storyteller. (You’ll enjoy listening to him as much as your students do, and it’s amazing how listening to a different voice than the one they hear all the time can perk up ears during a read-aloud.) Before reading Abiyoyo Returns, predict with your students how the people will handle Abiyoyo when he comes back. Contrast how Abiyoyo is the problem in one story and the solution in the other.For a fun art extension, get dowels from the hardware store (you can find them for less than $1 – cut them in half and they’re even less expensive!) and decorate your own magic wands. If your students are plagued with Halloween wiggles, let them sing the Abiyoyo song and dance around until they fall down. When you wave your wand to magically transport students back to their seats, their Halloween wiggles will have vanished!

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We Will Miss You, Maurice Sendak

Posted by on May 9, 2012 in Early Learning, Letter / Number Knowledge, Music Smart, Phonological Awareness, Print Awareness, Song Books, Vocabulary | 0 comments

May 8, 2012, the children’s book world lost an honored artist/author/illustrator, Maurice Sendak. Most people remember his book Where the Wild Things Are, but Sendak was by no means a one-hit wonder. He wrote and/or illustrated dozens of children’s books, so today, I’m mentioning a few of my favorites by the master from his 1962 collection, “The Nutshell Library”.

Pierre: a cautionary tale in five chapters and a prologue is a favorite from my childhood. Pierre is so apathetic that he answers “I don’t care,” in any situation, even when a lion asks, “Then I’ll eat you, if I may.” Don’t worry, Pierre is fine when he’s shaken out of the lion by the doctor, and his close call with death has made him realize that he does care after all.

Alligators All Around is Sendak’s clever, alliterative alphabet book. It is short and snappy enough to keep the interest of the littlest ones, but the humorous art is sly enough for older kids as well:
“A: alligators all around
B: bursting balloons
C: catching colds
D: doing dishes”
It’s a great writing prompt for a whole class or small group activity, writing two word alliterative phrases for each letter of the alphabet, choosing an A animal as the character to tie all the letters together.

“Whoopy once
whoopy twice
whoopy chicken soup
with rice.”
I adore Chicken Soup with Rice: a book of months. I visited a first grade classroom where the teacher had a poster for each month with the verse by Sendak for children to illustrate. Every month has the repetition of (something) once, (something) twice, (something) chicken soup with rice, so even emerging readers can chime in with confidence.

The “Nutshell Library” books were set to music by Carole King. You can find the songs on her cd “Really Rosie”, and you can find the animated television special made in 1975 on VHS if you roll old school. I love how kids instantly spot the similarities of Pierre and the boy on the cover of Chicken Soup with Rice to Max from Where the Wild Things Are. Share some Sendak books with your kids and talk about the similarities and differences in the art and in the plots. Play the music from “Really Rosie” and let your students sing the “Nutshell Library” books so your students can be, to paraphrase Alligators All Around, “S: singing Sendak!”

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It’s time to Bawk & Roll!

Posted by on Apr 4, 2012 in Body Smart, Early Learning, Integrating Knowledge and Ideas, Music Smart, Readers' Theater, Storybox Idea | 0 comments

Elvis Poultry and his back-up chicks are back, so hop on this tour bus and get ready to Bawk & Roll! Tammi Sauer and Dan Santat made this follow-up book just as irresistible as their first tail-shaker, Chicken Dance. Marge and Lola are now officially back-up dancers for the King of the Roost himself, Elvis Poultry. But when the lights go down and the curtains go up, Marge and Lola are truly chicken, too overwhelmed to flap a wing or shake a feather. Picturing the crowd in their underwear doesn’t help them (although your kids will looove that scene!), relaxing with bubble baths and meditation doesn’t do the trick, but with a little help from their friends, these chickens end up really cooking on stage.

For those of us looking for great books to compare/contrast to meet the Integration of Knowledge and Ideas Common Core State Standard (RL 3.9 if you’re playing CCSS Bingo at home), share Chicken Dance and Bawk & Roll with your kids. Compare what Marge and Lola do in each book – how they overcome their fears, how the other characters in the books help them, etc. Tammi Sauer and Dan Santat have so much fun, free stuff on their website: You can print off and make your own rockin’ Elvis Poultry sunglasses and wear them while you watch the author and the illustrator teach you how to do different dances! These books would be fantastic for Readers’ Theater scripts and so fun and easy for a Storybox if you put cut-out characters with book for kids to retell the story. Guaranteed, all your little ones will say after hearing Bawk & Roll, “Thank you. Thankyouverymuch.”

Follow the Bawk & Roll tour bus as it rolls across the internet:


April 2-6 Rob Sanders: Picture This!

April 3 Julie Danielson: Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast

April 4 Jennifer Bertman: From the Mixed-Up Files of Jennifer Bertman

April 4 Kristen Remenar: Author, Librarian, National Speaker – Hey, that’s me! 🙂

April 5 Julie Hedlund: Write Up My Life

April 6 Jennifer Rumberger: Children’s Author

For more information, visit or

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My Pick for St. Patrick’s Day

Posted by on Mar 14, 2012 in Early Learning, Holiday, Math Tie-In, Music Smart, Nature Smart | 0 comments

In the past, I’ve had rotten luck finding a good book to share with wee ones on St. Patrick’s Day, but I think I’ve found gold with this one: Jamie O’Rourke and the Big Potato: an Irish folktale by Tomie dePaola. Jamie O’Rourke is the laziest man in all of Ireland, never doing a lick of work. He stumbles upon a leprechaun, and the clever leprechaun convinces Jamie that instead of taking his gold, he should wish for the world’s biggest potato – then he’d never have to worry about food again! Jamie grows the biggest potato, enough to feed the town, enough for everyone to eat their fill until they wished they’d never see another potato again! Jamie then makes a deal that satisfies the villagers and his own lazy nature, and the clever leprechaun gets to keep his gold.

If you’re looking for some quick, inexpensive, fun activities to do to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day, bring in some potatoes and this book. After hearing the story, little ones can play “Hot Potato” by passing around a real potato. If your ears can tolerate kid music (for me, it depends on the day I’m having!) the Wiggles have a song called “Hot Potato” that my littlest ones love. You can make stamps from the potatoes to dip in paint and use to make patterns for an art and math activity. If you have a green thumb (and don’t we all on St. Patrick’s Day?) you can show kids a potato with “eyes” and talk about how a potato grows. I’ve seen lessons where teachers start the budding process by putting potatoes in a brown paper bag and leaving it in a closet, I’ve seen ideas for suspending the potato with toothpicks in a jar of water – I even found a website: teacher resources to get you started! Even black-thumbed folks like me can usually get a potato to bud, so a fun science experiment can grow from one Irish folktale. Now that’s magical!

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