Category Archives: Rhyming

books that rhyme

The Gruffalo

A mouse took a stroll through the deep dark wood.
A fox saw the mouse and the mouse looked good.
“Where are you going to, little brown mouse?
Come and have lunch in my underground house.”

A simple stroll through the deep dark wood quickly becomes a perilous journey for a little brown mouse in Julia Donaldson’s outstanding read-aloud classic, The Gruffalo. Not to worry, however! The protagonist of this thoroughly delightful picture book may be small, but he is daring and clever in the face of danger…even when his story takes an unexpected twist.

As he proceeds on his way, the audacious mouse is invited to lunch with a fox in his den, to have tea with an owl in his treetop house, and to a feast with a snake in his cozy log-pile home. Faced with these unattractive alternatives, what can a little brown mouse do to tactfully avoid becoming someone else’s meal? Ms. Donaldson’s protagonist declines each invitation, confessing to a prior engagement with a formidable creature called a Gruffalo who is due to arrive at any moment, and whose description becomes increasingly fearsome with every encounter. As each would-be host flees in terror, the mouse chuckles to himself…don’t they know? There’s no such thing as a Gruffalo!

Or is there?

When the mouse is unexpectedly confronted with the living, breathing, real-life version of his imaginary beast (who happens to particularly like the taste of mouse!), our little hero promptly turns the tables one more time, and comes out on top.

With the help of Ms. Donaldson’s rhythmic, rhyming prose and with characters brought so humorously to life by Axel Scheffler’s colorful illustrations, this book instantly became a favorite of reader and listener alike in our home. The cover illustration alone was enough to make our youngest pick this book over a stuffed Paddington bear.

As with several of Ms. Donaldson and Mr. Scheffler’s collaborations, The Gruffalo is available in a Scots “translation” for anyone interested in a challenging but entertaining read-aloud – just be sure to bring your best Scottish brogue.

Also, if you enjoy The Gruffalo as much as we do, we heartily recommend the sequel: The Gruffalo’s Child!


Day 178 – Over in the Ocean

 

Over in the ocean
Far away from the sun
Lived a mother octopus
And her octopus one

‘Squirt’ said the mother
‘I squirt’ said the one
So they squirted in the reef
Far away from the sun”

over-in-the-oceanSo begins Marianne Berkes’ “Over in the the Ocean”, a wonderfully catchy rhyming and counting book that also serves as an introduction to some of the amazing animals that live along the coral reef. Set to the rhythm and tune of Olive Wadsworth’s classic rhyme “Over in the Meadow”, “Over in the Ocean” is a delightful read aloud experience made all the more entertaining by Jeanette Canyon’s intricate “relief” illustrations.

We had a lot of fun reading this book. The pace and rhyme scheme are addictive – it rolls right off your tongue and should keep little listeners thoroughly engaged. In the back of the hardcover edition that we read there is also a copy of the music to go with the rhyme and some additional information about the coral reef and the animals in the book. The end notes also include some tips from Ms. Canyon – who created all of the illustrations in the book with polymer clay(!) We love finding these kinds of extra “goodies” as part of our reading adventures – it’s so fun!

For some additional background information, you can watch a video about Ms. Canyon’s work on “Over in the Ocean” by clicking here.


Day 175 – A Stick is an Excellent Thing

Today we read a perfect book for summertime – a playful and breezy book of poems about outdoor play called “A Stick is an Excellent Thing” by Marylin Singer and illustrated by LeUyen Pham. With jaunty, rhyming text and joyful depictions of children enjoying the outdoors to the fullest, it had us ready to drop everything and head outside to play!stick

Ms. Singer’s poems pay tribute to all the fantastic fun that can be had outdoors with the simplest of toys – a sprinkler, bubbles, jacks, a red rubber ball, a jump rope, some sidewalk chalk, and (yes) excellent sticks! It’s a great reminder that having fun on a hot summer day doesn’t necessarily require any planning or expensive toys, just a few simple props and some space to move (of course, around these parts you also often need some Off repellant – which I noticed was not mentioned in any of Ms. Singer’s poems!)

The rhyming text is fun to read aloud, and the fast-paced format is perfect for short attention spans (whether it’s the reader or the listener with the short attention span). I’m not sure which poem was my favorite, but my favorite illustration accompanied the poem “Upside Down” about looking at the world from another angle while hanging from a swing. I agree wholeheartedly with Ms. Singer: a stick is an excellent thing. I have seen it many times with my own eyes – which is why just reading the title of this book makes me smile. Ding-ding! Another winner.


Day 160 – How to Hide an Octopus

Ever wondered how to hide an octopus? How about a cuttlefish? Don’t know what a cuttlefish is? Well, have we got the book for you: “How to Hide an Octopus” by Ruth Heller. With rhythmic, rhyming text, it’s an entertaining and informative read-aloud about some very clever, camouflaged sea creatures.

octopusWhile most children will already be familiar with the titular octopus, Ms. Heller adds interest by introducing readers to some less-well-known denizens of the deep. Along with the aforementioned cuttlefish, there is a (spectacular) sea dragon, a (splendid) sargassum fish, and a (deceptive) decorator crab – just to name a few. In the flow of the book, Ms. Heller presents each animal and then hides it insider her colorful illustrations – great for engaging little listeners: can you find where the octopus is hidden? It’s quite fun. My favorite part was the closing page, which hints at a sequel…after summing up why these sea creatures might want to hide themselves, Ms. Heller observes that:

…predators to live must eat,

so also fade and are discreet,

and then their prey on which they sup

can’t see who’s going to eat them up.

If you’ve been wondering about how to hide an octopus and you’re looking for a light and lively read-aloud on the subject, we’ve found it! Eight tentacles up!


Day 141 – Peep Leap

Cute baby ducks? Check. Mortal peril? Check. A young one’s triumph in the face of seemingly insurmountable odds? Check! Yes, today’s book – “Peep Leap” by Elizabeth Verdick and illustrated by John Bendall-Brunello – has it all! All kidding aside, “Peep Leap” is a darling book about a baby wood duck overcoming his fears to take his first leap from the nest. With rhyming text and lovely watercolor illustrations, it’s fun to read aloud and keeps little listeners engaged throughout.

peepTen little eggs have hatched in mama wood duck’s hollow in the tree by the pond. One by one the newborn ducks take their first leap into the pond below…but one little duck hesitates. He is (rationally, in my opinion) afraid to jump. Eventually, however, seeing his siblings swimming and having fun in the pond, and listening to his mother’s encouraging words (“You are braver than you know!”) he takes the leap himself. At last, “all ten ducklings dip and glide, up and down, ’round and ’round, in their new pond home.”

We originally chose to read this book because the author, Ms. Verdick, was scheduled to participate in an upcoming Read-Aloud Revival author event. As usual, I loved how open the author was in sharing her experiences and processes on the web cast. One of the things Ms. Verdick mentioned in the event was that “Peep Leap” is her favorite book right now because it brings together four things she really loves: books, kids, animals, and nature. Coincidentally, those are four of my favorite things, too! Another very interesting thing I learned was that wood ducks don’t quack. Adult ducks basically screech and baby ducks… you guessed it: peep! Thus the name “Peep Leap.” Oh, and don’t forget to read the authors note in the back of the book, it provides some good information about wood ducks and their leap.

Day 139 – In Enzo’s Splendid Gardens

So far this year, books by Patricia Polacco have appeared twice on our reading list (“Fiona’s Lace” and “The Keeping Quilt”), and her tale “An Orange for Frankie” will absolutely be on the December list as it has been one of our favorite Christmas tales for several years running. In each of these books we found a heart-felt tale inspired by Ms. Polacco’s family history. Today’s story, another from Ms. Polacco’s vast literary canon, also draws on family for inspiration – and while it takes a different tack from her other books we have read, it is no less entertaining. “In Enzo’s Splendid Garden” takes the reader on an entertaining and increasingly chaotic ride. It is a rollicking and rhyming good time, and a delightful book for read-aloud.

enzo“In Enzo’s Splending Garden” introduces us to Ms. Polacco’s husband, Enzo, and the story takes place at his Italian restaurant in Oakland. The book begins with a little bee buzzing past the patrons in Enzo’s splendid garden. This is all fine and dandy until a boy, fascinated with bees, turns to look at the bee and drops his book. First a waiter trips on the book, then he flings a drink from his tray onto a “matron all dressed in pink”, and, well, things deteriorate quickly from there. At one point, Enzo’s cat Lettie takes off running up a palm tree wearing a pot full of spaghetti! On every page, the rhyming text builds, tossing a new “wrench” into the mix and building to complete pandemonium…until firemen arrive to rescue Lettie from her perch in the palm tree, and someone thinks to ask “how did this happen?”

This book was a lot of fun to read. It was almost like a game to see if I could read the ever-longer passages with only one breath…although that approach seemed to be a stressful experience for some listeners, so I had to let up. Ms. Polacco’s helter-skelter watercolor illustrations were a perfect complement, adding to the sense of disarray conveyed by the text. The emotive expressions on the faces of the patrons added to the humor. I think it’s safe to say that this departure from our typical Patricia Polacco experience was a very fun – and funny – detour. Now I want some spaghetti!


Day 121 – The Pet Project

If you’re the type that oohs and aahs
at furry faces, precious paws,
the words ahead may be alarming:
Animals aren’t always charming

So reads the disclaimer at the beginning of “The Pet Project” by Lisa Wheeler and illustrated by Zacharia O’Hara. It is a clever and captivating collection of cautionary compositions about picking the perfect pet. With heaps of humor from the rhythmic, rhyming prose and the witty, whimsical illustrations, “The Pet Project” is read-aloud gold!

projectThe book centers on a young girl who asks her professorial parents for a pet. Responding to her request, mom and dad recommend research, advising our protagonist:
“Research, child is not a joke…Formulate a query…slowly plan your bestiary“. If their plan is to convince their daughter that she doesn’t need a pet, then it comes off (almost) perfectly. After working her way diligently through farm animals, woodland creatures, zoo beasties, and more traditional pets, and finding issues with each selection, our heroine arrives at the conclusion that her ideal pets may actually be…protozoa?

I had a lot of fun reading this book aloud. The rhythm varies from poem to poem, and the rhymes are clever. Some of the less desirable characteristics of the potential pets are also sure to get a giggle from younger listeners (the dove poops on her glasses, the cow lays a stinky pie at her feet, and the hippo has a horrible case of halitosis, etc.). Laid out like a field guide, the book is full of hand-written notes and comments in the margins that add to the humor (bonus: even the comments in the insets rhyme!). And then there are the expressive and engaging illustrations (if the gross-outs in the poems don’t get a giggle, the accompanying pictures surely will).

We are sad to leave National Poetry Month behind as we head into May…but I can confidently claim that we thoroughly enjoyed the month right down to the very last read-aloud word of “The Pet Project”!

 


Day 119 – Swing Around the Sun

So…it’s April and you’re looking for a book about seasons that also has poetry – you know, for National Poetry Month? Well, have we got the book for you! “Swing Around the Sun” is a charming collection of seasonal poems by Barbara Juster Esbensen about the colors, events, and feelings that we typically identify with each of the seasons. It’s a book that is a joy to read aloud, and with seasonally appropriate illustrations blanketing every page in color, it’s also an engaging work of art.swing

We were originally alerted to “Swing Around the Sun” by author Laura Purdie Salas – who mentioned that book as one of her inspirations during an online author event several weeks back at Read Aloud Revival. Ms. Esbensen has written five short and engaging poems for each season, with our favorite being “The Wind Woman”…in part because of the dramatic illustration that seems to show the face of the Wind Woman flying over the shadows of trees in the evergreen forest of winter.

Originally published in 1965, “Swing Around the Sun” was reissued in 2003 with an all-star cast of four illustrators – each one applying a unique style and creating a particular feeling around each of the seasons. As a side note, I did think it was interesting that each of the four illustrators currently lives in the Twin Cities in Minnesota. While I thought each artist’s style was appropriate for the chosen season, our favorite illustrations in their own right were Janice Lee Porter’s for Summer.swing 2

This was a very entertaining picture book, and one which I am glad to have added to our collection (poetry books are particularly nice to be able to pick up and read again and again). I will admit that I had to order a copy of the original 1965 edition as well, if only because I love the old-school look of the orange and yellow sun illustration on the front cover. Hey – having two copies can’t hurt…can it? We’re not entirely buried in books yet!


Day 118 – Who Likes Rain?

Who likes rain? With April showers in full swing, we found ourselves asking – and answering – that question while reading “Who Likes Rain” by Wong Hebert Yee. Mr. Lee’s book is a rhyming and rollicking good time that makes entertaining use of onomatopoeia, keeps readers engaged with the repeated question “Who Likes Rain?” and provides a very satisfying ending…at least from the perspective of some younger listeners.who likes rain

Filled with Mr. Yee’s colorful soft-focus illustrations, the book follows a little girl who, rather than despondently sitting at home and asking “Who Likes Rain?”, decides to don her raincoat and, boots and head out into the downpour to find out first-hand. The rain pit-pit-pits on windowpanes, ping-ping-pings on awnings, and tum-tum-tums on umbrellas as the little girl watches cats scat, frogs hop, and worms squirm. She decides that the neighbor’s dog doesn’t like rain, nor does papa’s truck, but ducks clearly do. Eventually, as the rain clears, it occurs to the little girl that there is one more creature who may like rain most of all…as she – KER-SPLAT – jumps right into one of the puddles left behind.

We had a lot of fun reading this relatively simple picture book. There’s some information here about how the real world works – but the best part was the way in which the rhymes hinted at who, on the very next page, was going to like rain. It was infectious enough that mommy couldn’t help but call out the answer before I could turn some of the pages. Big smiles all around!


Day 110 – Book Speak

This evening we read another fabulous book of verse for National Poetry Month. “Book Speak” by Laura Purdie Salas is a compilation of poems about or inspired by books. Full of clever turns of phrase, insightful metaphors, and just the right mix of rhyming and free-verse compositions, “Book Speak” was an absolute joy to read aloud! The collage and watercolor illustrations by Josee Bisaillon added a playfully colorful touch of whimsy.bookspeak

After we finished reading the book together, we paused – as we frequently do – to discuss our impressions and to pick out what it was we liked best about the book. Overall, I think it’s fair to say that what we liked most about this book was: it’s a book about books (one of our favorite subjects)! Our favorite poem was “This is the Book” – in part because of the informative way it walks through the the individual roles that are played when a book is made (writer, editor, designer, illustrator, publisher, buyer, and reader), and in part because we loved the ending:

And she is the reader, who browses the shelf, and looks for new worlds, but finds herself

What a beautiful concept!

There are also lots of clever points of view in the book. I particularly liked “Index” where the voice of the book’s index sounds distinctly like a shady street vendor hocking “Rolex” watches from inside his raincoat: “psst!”, don’t bother with the rest of the book, kid – I’ve got everything you could possibly want right here in the back! I also enjoyed “The Middle’s Lament”, which is a “Poem in Three Voices” with the middle of the book having an existential crisis and being “talked off the ledge” by the front and back. What I liked about this one was that the three voices facilitated a collaborative read-aloud, like a play, for me and our oldest…(as a side note, I can’t wait until we can read some plays together as a family).

I could go on with examples, but suffice to say that this is a very entertaining, charming book. You can tell in reading it that Ms. Salas is a true book lover (why wouldn’t she be?). I think we also enjoyed it in part because we learned on a recent online author event that Ms. Salas’ first love is poetry. She mentioned that it can be difficult to get a poetry book picked up by a publisher. However difficult it may have been, we are very happy Ms. Salas was able to get “Book Speak” published.