In my previous post, I mentioned a few of my favorite picture book versions of children’s songs. Sometimes, though, a picture book will come with no musical notation, no “to the tune of ___________” encouragements, and yet will beg to be sung nonetheless. Or at least, they do if you are the kind of person who tends to make up silly, random songs for everything from diaper changes to walking up the stairs.
I first encountered Charlie Parker played be bop by Chris Raschka at a musical story with a musical therapist from Boston Early Intervention at our local branch of the public library. The woman who does story hour sang the story, snapping her fingers and tapping her feet as she went. When I later checked the book out of the library, I expected it to have some sort of musical notation to lead me to her tune. Nope. But really, no notation is needed. Chris Raschka captures the rhythms of jazz in his writing. You might not arrive at exactly the same tune we use, but I guarantee that you will be tempted to belt out reeti futi reeti futi reeti footi ree!
Perhaps it isn’t surprising that so many of the books I find myself singing have jazz themes. Lisa Wheeler’s Jazz Baby introduces you to a scat singing, blues dancing family and their rollicking neighborhood as they celebrate and ultimately rock their jazz baby to sleep. We love this book because it is fun to read (and sing!), and because it places the baby in the context of extended family and neighbors in an urban setting. So many picture books reduce the family to its nuclear manifestation, or worse, a simplistic mother-baby dyad. In Wheeler’s book, Uncles, Aunts, Grandma, Grandpa and all the neighbors join the fun. R. Gregory Christie’s illustrations provide the cast with a multiplicity of skin-tones, to capture the true diversity of our families and our world. A 2008 Geisel Award honor book, Jazz baby is great for early readers as well as reading aloud.
I feel a little silly putting Jakki Wood’s Moo Moo Brown Cow in a post about picture books that aren’t meant to be sung, because it seems so obvious to me that it is meant to be sung to the tune of “Baa baa, black sheep.” However, none of the official descriptions or reviews I have read say anything about singing it so I am going to put it in this post anyway. In Moo Moo, Brown Cow, a curious kitty asks all of her animal friends about their offspring, beginning with “Moo, Moo Brown cow, have you any calves? Yes kitty, yes kitty one spotted calf” and working up to “Glub glub rainbow trout have you any small fry? Yes kitty, yes kitty can you count all ten?” This book gives an opportunity to practice several different concepts: colors, animals and their babies, animal sounds, and counting. I would not recommend this book for colors though, as the illustrations don’t always match the text (the picture of the white duck is very clearly yellow).