I learned the idea of “books that sing” from Nancy Stewart. These are books that can be sung instead of read. At my preschool this year, my music curriculum has featured a book that sings each week. At some point, I’ll share the full curriculum, but for now, here is a preview of the books we’ll be using in April.
I looked for books featuring a springtime theme. I considered Inch by Inch, the Garden Song, which is quite good. (I use it in my kids’ science class when we talk about plants.) I thought long and hard about Dancing Feet by Lindsey Craig and Mark Brown (video) which would be so easy to make up a jazzy tune to sing it to. Or, since we’re in Seattle, there’s Singing in the Rain, the lyrics from the movie with illustrations by Hopgood. (video) But, I’ve been trying to choose books where the children know the tune so they can sing or hum along.
I decided to check for books of “Over in the Meadow” and “Five Little Ducks.” Turns out that there are at least five versions of each song! Let’s check them out:
Over in the Meadow
This is a classic counting song. If you’re not familiar with the tune, you can hear it in this video, which is from the Barefoot Books version of this book that sings. We didn’t have a copy of that one at my library but you can find it on Amazon. (Note: I am an Amazon associate, which means if you click on any of the linked book names in this post, it will take you to a description on Amazon. If you end up buying anything after clicking through, I get a small referral bonus at no cost to you.)
Over in the Meadow – Jane Cabrera. Each two-page spread has a verse and all the animals for that verse to count. In this book, at the end, it says “over in the meadow while the mothers are away, can you count the babies? they’ve all come to play.” You can then play an I-spy style to find and count all the animals in one scene. My library has the Wonderbook version where you can play the music to sing along to. But, the recording is a little bland and slow to my taste – I’d rather sing it myself.
Over in the Meadow illus by Rojankovsky. Copyright 1957, featuring lovely pastel sketches. At the end of the book, there is a nocturnal scene where many of the animals appear. It includes an owl chasing a frightened looking bunny which might trouble a few particularly sensitive children. Includes sheet music of the tune on the last page.
Over in the Meadow illustrated by Anna Vojtech. The illustrations are lovely. I like that in addition to the main illustration where you can count the animals “hiding” in the scene, and then below the verse, there’s a picture of just the baby animals. I’m dubious about verse 10 with the little beavers ten. “Beave said the mother, we beave said the ten…”
Over in the Meadow, illus by Paul Galdone. (c. 1986. not available on Amazon.) Although I don’t love the illustrations, an interesting aspect is that it has one page that shows the digit and the written out number, then a second page to finish the verse.
Over in the Meadow, illus by Ezra Jack Keats. Nice naturalistic illustrations. Only minor quibble is that sometimes it’s hard to tell the difference between the parent and the babies, which makes it harder for the kids to count the babies accurately.
Also check out Over in the Ocean by Berkes – I LOVE this book. (Here’s a video. Not to be confused with Jack Hartman’s Over in the Ocean.) Berkes also has Over in a River: Flowing Out to the Sea and Going Around the Sun: Some Planetary Fun which are all to this same tune. Learn more about these books.
Five Little Ducks
Another counting rhyme. This one counts down from five to zero. And then rather than leaving poor mama duck bereft, all five little ducks come back at the end. Here’s the tune. Or another version. There is also a Raffi recording of it.
Five Little Ducks illus by Penny Ives. Nice illustrations, cut outs in the pages that preview things on the next page.
Five Little Ducks, by Denise Fleming. In this version, instead of Mama Duck calling the babies back, Papa Duck does. It also adds in days of the week and instead of just going over the hills and far away, they go other places. Monday – through the woods, Wednesday past the paddock, Thursday – across the fields, Friday – down the road. Saturday they come back. Then, Mama Duck discourages them from leaving the nest, because on Sunday “we all rest.” At the end of the book, there’s a paragraph of information on each of the animal types depicted.
Five Little Ducks illus by Pamela Paparone. Shows Mother duck doing all sorts of work around the farm: gardening, hanging laundry, ironing, picking apples, but also painting a picture. A nice feature is the pages that show the correct number of little ducks either walking away up the hill or coming back down the hill, plus they’re seen in another scene, so there’s lots of opportunities to count the same number to get a good grasp that three is three, no matter how they’re arranged on the page.
Five Little Ducks illus by Aruego and Dewey. Part of the Raffi Songs to Read series. My least favorite illustrations. But the end is unique. After all the ducks are gone, and none of the little ducks come back, we see Mama in Autumn, Mama in winter, and going out in spring to find all five little ducks who have all had babies of their own! One has five babies, one has four, one has three, one has two, and one has just one baby. Also has the sheet music at the end.
Five Little Ducks illus by Ivan Bates. A pretty straightforward edition with nice drawings and the sheet music in the back.
And that’s not all! There are more versions available – see them on Amazon.
How I Use Books that Sing
Sometimes I introduce the song first, teaching it and helping the kids get the hang of it first before introducing the book. This is helpful if either I think the song is brand new to everyone OR if the words in the books have a lot of variations from the typical words. (For example, I would want them familiar with the Over in the Meadow tune before introducing Over in the Ocean. When I read Over in the Ocean, since the words are so different than they know, I would have them hum the tune along with me as I sing the words in the book. It turns out three year olds are great at humming tunes!)
With these books, since most of them align really closely with the traditional words and since I have SO MANY books to choose from this month, I’m just going to teach the songs by reading the books, saving the ones with the most word variations (like the Papa Duck version) for last.