At a recent library storytime, the children, parents, caregivers and I had lots of fun reading new picture books, but I was reminded yet again about the power of old favorites.
“Yum, Yum, What Fun” by Mara Bergman starts out with two friends and their little dog Harry baking bread, when who should come clomping in through the window but a crocodile!
He hides behind a lamp so the children can’t see him, but soon enough a camel clumps in, then a snake, and finally a bear, all drawn in from the neighboring zoo by the delicious aromas wafting from the kitchen.
Bergman’s rhyming text bounces along at a great clip, and the children loved pointing out – okay, calling out in excited voices – the name of each animal as it arrived. We were all relieved when the bear turned out to be hungry not for children or dogs but for bread. Preschoolers who enjoy this book will also like Bergman’s “Snip Snap! What's That?” starring a crocodile that’s scary, but not too scary.
Another new rhyming book, Phyllis Root’s “Flip, Flap, Fly!”, was a bit of a tongue twister that also evoked excited guesses from the children. “…in the blue, blue sky,/where the wind blows whish./'Look!' cheeps the baby bird./'I see a…” Here I paused for the children to guess the answer, then turned the page to reveal a “FISH!'" A succession of baby otters, mice and snakes ends with the creatures spotting a baby child, prompting a double page spread showing all the babies outside enjoying the sunshine.
Picture books like this that rhyme in a predictable way help build the foundations of early literacy. They are also just plain fun to read aloud. If your children enjoy this one, try “Oh, A-Hunting We Will Go!” by John Langstaff, which is also fun to sing.
Two of the stories were familiar to almost every child in the room, but they greeted them with glad cries. Of the many picture book versions of “The Three Bears,” Paul Galdone’s edition remains a favorite for its sturdy storytelling language and big, colorful illustrations. Children loved to chime in on the repeated phrases like “Someone’s been sitting in my chair!” When Goldilocks jumped out the window at the end of the story, everyone chorused “and she never visited the three bears A-GAIN!”
Helen Oxenbury’s watercolor illustrations for Michael Rosen’s “We’re Going on a Bear Hunt” have a dreamy quality that fits the rhyme perfectly. There are many versions of this classic, with its refrain, “We can’t go over it, we can’t go under it, oh, no! We’ll have to go through it!” In this one, a daddy and several children walk through the grass, squelch through mud, ford a river and tiptoe into a cave where they find a great big bear. After everyone has breathlessly retraced their steps and landed safely in their warm beds, turn the page to see the bear, his back to the reader, walking alone along a rocky beach. It’s a slightly mournful yet perfect end to the story.
These books were shared at Alphabet Soup, the library’s drop-in storytime for ages two to five (though our audience last week ranged from babies up through about age eight). You can find the schedule for this and other fun, free storytimes at all library branches at LibraryPoint.org.
This article was first published in The Free Lance-Star on 7/28/09.