Category Archives: Phoenetic awareness

Books with alliteration, repetition or other devices that can help beginning readers learn more quickly

Day 109 – Oh No!

This afternoon we were thrilled to be able to sit in on another live author event at Read Aloud Revival – this time with author Candace Fleming. In her honor this afternoon we read “Oh, No!”, an infectious, rhythmic read-aloud experience that has been a favorite with our youngest ever since we checked it out of the library several weeks ago. I was hooked on this one from the very first “Ribbit-oops” of the tree frog falling into a deep, deep hole. The jaunty cadence, the repetition, the rhyming, and Eric Rohmann’s rich and humorous illustrations make this an instant read-aloud classic – in my humble opinion.oh no

Following the tree frog into the deep, deep hole we meet a squeaky mouse (pippa-eek), a lethargic loris (sooo-slooow), a clever sunbear, and a merry monkey. Oh No! All the while they are being watched by a ravenous and patient tiger who has been waiting his turn to “help” the trapped animals out of their predicament. Oh No! However, there is one more animal coming that the tiger did not count on…turnabout is fair play, as they say…Oh No!

Just flipping through the book as I write this review, I wish we could all sit down and read it aloud again. It’s thoroughly addictive – both the words and the pictures. I’m honestly not sure which I like better. The repetition and the rhyming are also great for beginning readers. I highly recommend this Fleming-Rohmann collaboration. It’s an honest-to-goodness five-star read-aloud treat!

While we didn’t hear a lot from Ms. Fleming regarding “Oh, No!” on the recent online event, we did learn that the illustrator – Mr. Rohman – is Ms. Fleming’s husband. You wouldn’t know it from their brief bios on the inside of the dust jacket, although (curiously) they both live in Oak Park, Illinois…so I guess you could “do the math”. It seems like a pretty good deal as an author to have your own Caldecott Medal-winning illustrator right there in the same house…even if Mr. Rohman has only illustrated a few of Ms. Fleming’s books. Ms. Fleming provided what I thought were some fascinating insights on how she thinks about the author-illustrator dynamic. Ms. Fleming has been writing long enough that she does actually get some say in who will be chosen to do the artwork for her books, unlike most authors. However, she has also learned to get out of the illustrator’s way once he or she has been selected: she believes it is the illustrator’s job to decide how to tell the story in pictures, and she doesn’t even like to provide feedback to her husband when he is working on one of her books. It sounds like she is typically very happy with the results, too. I particularly enjoyed hearing her description of what it’s like to see the final version of her books for the first time; regardless how she might have imagined the characters when she was writing, she opens up the book to see the pictures and thinks (and I’m paraphrasing): Of course! THAT is what they look like! I thought that was a neat way to think about a process that might seem impersonal to some.


Day 78 – Muncha! Muncha! Muncha!

For years, Mr. McGreely has had a dream “…of getting his hands dirty, growing yummy vegetables, and…gobbling them all up.” One fine spring day, “by golly,” he decides it is finally time for his dream to become reality. He hoes, and he sows, and he watches his garden grow – but he is not alone! In the corner of his yard, somebunny else has their eyes on Mr. McGreely’s veggies – three somebunnies to be exact!

munchaThat evening…”tippy, tippy, tippy, pat”…the “puff-tailed” interlopers steal into the garden by moonlight and “muncha, muncha, muncha” Mr. McGreely’s carefully cultivated sprouts. What ensues is a rapidly escalating and humorously excessive contest of man against nature – with Mr. McGreely erecting increasingly imposing barriers against these three resourceful and ravenous “lop-eared” larcenists. After building what looks like a maximum-security prison around his garden – complete with moat – it appears he has succeeded in turning away the “twitch-whiskered” trouble-makers…or has he?

Candace Fleming’s “Muncha, Muncha, Muncha” put a big fat smile on my face. The mischievous bunnies, the use of onomatopoeia, and Mr. Greely’s emotional outbursts nam nammade for an engaging read aloud experience (for narrator and listener alike). The repetitive moonlight “refrain” of the bunnies sneaking into the garden – “tippy, tippy, tippy, pat…muncha, muncha, muncha” – is great for beginning readers as well. Perhaps best of all, Ms. Fleming’s book inspired us all to start munching on carrots as our oldest read us the Spanish version of the story.

Candace Fleming is scheduled to be featured in the next online author event at Read Aloud Revival (April 17, 2016). We plan on working in several more of Ms. Fleming’s books between now and then. We can’t wait!


Day 62 – Happy Birthday Dr. Seuss

Day 62 of our Storybook Year fell on Dr. Seuss’ birthday; he would have been 112 years old yesterday. In his honor, we had a monstrous pile of Seuss books ready to go; it was actually fairly impressive how many of his books we already had on our shelves, but we supplemented with a trip to the bookstore as well. We read “Green Eggs and Ham”, “Ten Apples Up on Top”, “Too Many Daves” (from “The Sneetches”) and “The Cat in the Hat” – which we were able to find in a bilingual edition (“El Gato Ensombrerado”!).  We also read “Fox in Sox” back on day 28, and I am sure we will be seeing the good Doctor again at some point (or at several points) during our Storybook Year.cat hat

Nothing I can say in one blog post is going to entirely do justice to Dr. Seuss; there were doubtless thousands upon thousands of better, more thoughtful, and more complete tributes to his impact on children’s literature published yesterday. I will simply say “Happy Birthday” to one of the most prolific and talented storybook writers and illustrators of all time, and “Thank You.”


Day 28 – Fox in Sox

“Take it slowly. This book is DANGEROUS!” So began our book tonight – one of my all-time favorites by Dr. Seuss: “Fox in Sox.”Fox in Sox Not unlike “Green Eggs and Ham”, “Fox in Sox” centers on a persistent and meddlesome character (Fox) trying to convince another chap (“Mr. Knox”) to try something new. In this case, the “something” is a series of increasingly difficult tongue twisters which are tremendously fun to read aloud, as long as you keep your wits about you and don’t try to go too fast. The full disclaimer on the front of the book:

“This is a book you READ ALOUD to find out just how smart your tongue is. The first time you read it, don’t go fast! This Fox is a tricky fox. He’ll try to get your tongue in trouble.”

If you have older children, I expect at least one of them will want to have a go at read aloud after you – it’s hard to resist the challenge!


Day 9 – Demolition

Our Day 9 book, “Demolition” by Sally Sutton, is another rhyming book with a catchy hook; every rhyme ends with a three-word onomatopoeia for the activity taking place on the page.Demolition “Demolition” is actually one of three construction books by Sally Sutton – all of which follow the same rhyme-scheme and rhythm. Her storybook “Road Work” was a favorite of our youngest for a while. The title of tonight’s book was a little bit deceptive (but not in a bad way) – Ms. Sutton does show construction equipment tearing down a building, but her book is almost as much about recycling materials and building something new as it is about tearing things down.

In our extended read aloud time we began “The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn”. Honestly, while Tom Sawyer was a fun read, we really read that book so thaHuck Finnt we could read this one. The first chapter of “Huckleberry Finn” is a continuation of the last chapter of Tom Sawyer – except that while “Tom Sawyer” was told from a third-person point of view (Mark Twain narrating), “Huckleberry Finn” is narrated in the first person by Huck himself. This evening, we met a new and thoroughly unpleasant character in the world of Tom Sawyer and Huck Finn: Huck’s good-for-nothing father. Huck’s father is an abusive alcoholic who, while unsuccessful in wresting Huck’s fortune away for himself, has now kidnapped Huck and is holding him prisoner in a cabin several miles up the river from town. We have also met the other major character in the book – besides Huck: Jim, an adult slave who lives in Huck’s town, and who will be spending much of the book travelling along the Mississippi river with Huck.

We can already tell that “Huckleberry Finn” will present some challenges for read-aloud. The first is that the first-person perspective means that I am reading in a southern accent through the entire book – both narration and dialogue. The second, and perhaps more challenging, is the increased frequency of the “n” word. This word, while an accurate representation of how people talked in the antebellum South, is jarring to say and hear; I will admit to having inserted alternate phrasing several times already. However, one of the reasons we like to read aloud as a family is so that we can talk together about some of the heavier subjects that come up in good books. Tom Sawyer spurred a discussion about the death penalty last night, and I am sure Huckleberry Finn will present an invitation to discuss slavery and racism – even if I continue to make substitutions for that particular word.