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On Mother's Lap
Written by Ann Herbert Scott
Illustrated by Glo Coalson
Clarion Books

A little Eskimo boy delights in his mother’s warmth and love as he sits on her lap rocking back and forth. He decides to gather his playthings one-by-one – even his puppy – and return to the rocking chair to pile everything, and himself, back onto Mother. Suddenly, his baby sister begins to cry, and the little boy insists that there simply isn’t any room for her. Mother disagrees and proves that “there is always room on Mother’s lap.” This delightful story captures the tenderness of a universal childhood experience and includes an important lesson about sharing a mother’s love – and her lap – with a new baby sibling.

Potluck of Fun:
Use this book as a springboard to conversations with your children about your own childhood experiences. How did you and your mother spend time together? If you have siblings, how did you interact with each other and learn to share? How did your sibling relationship(s) grow over time? Share your best memories of family life with your children and build even more precious memories together.

On Mother’s Lap was originally published in 1972 with black and white illustrations. Twenty years later the same artist, Glo Coalson, updated the pictures – adding colors that more strongly convey the warmth of the story while maintaining the lifelike nature of the original drawings. Check to see if your library has a copy of the 1972 edition. Have fun reading and comparing both versions.

Clarion Books is planning to publish this title as a bilingual Spanish/English board book, En las Piernas de Mamá / On Mother’s Lap, in February 2007. Bilingual picture books are terrific tools for educating and entertaining in ways that support family reading, language development and cultural tolerance. Bilingual Spanish/English picture books can introduce Spanish speakers to English and English speakers to Spanish, while also preserving tradition and boosting children’s self-confidence. In a world with a global economy and a global village spawned by mass media and technology, it’s important for children from all backgrounds to experience another's language and culture through a love of books.


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Sleep Rhymes Around the World
Edited by Jane Yolen
Illustrated by Maria Batttaglia, Jan Cerny, Mustafa Delioglu, Morella Fuenmayor, Mirajudin Ghawsi, Feeroozeh Golmohammadi, Margaret D. Jones, David Kanietakeron, Frane Lessac, Kristiina Louhi, Kim Seon Mee, Cyd Moore, Charles Onyekwere Ohu, Juan Alvarez O’Neill, Maria Pechena, Simon S.K. Sagala-Mulindwa, Janko Testen and Chewun Wisasa
Wordsong/Boyds Mills Press

More than 20 lullaby rhymes from 17 countries are gathered in this book, including selections from Afghanistan, Czech Republic, Nigeria, Thailand, Turkey and Venezuela. With a few exceptions, each rhyme is presented in its native language accompanied by an English translation. The lullabies from non-Roman alphabet based languages, such as Korean, appear with phonetic translations (or transliterations) “so you can ‘hear’ how these rhymes sound.” An artist from the country of origin beautifully illustrates each poem or song. These vibrant and stunning illustrations convey the universal theme of bedtime comfort with a distinct and rich cultural flavor.

Potluck of Fun:
Lullabies are among the first stories children hear as their parents sing them to sleep. This book offers a true treasure of such stories and a multicultural celebration. Through specific words and illustrations, we see the differences between nations and cultures, but the overall theme is universal: we all seek to comfort, teach and love our children. This collection implicitly demonstrates that – no matter where we come from, what language we speak or what food we eat – there is more that unites than separates us.

Check out Jane Yolen’s companion book Street Rhymes Around the World (Shen’s Books) for a culturally rich read-aloud experience that focuses on playtime themes.

For resources and information on multicultural children’s literature, visit the Web site of the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) [] and enter the phrase “multicultural books” in the Search box. Click on the link for Anti-Bias and Multicultural Books for Children. This will lead you to links for Book Categories that contain comprehensive listings of books recommended by the A World of Difference Institute. You can also go to and enter the phrase “multicultural books” in the Search box. Click on the link for How to Choose the Best Multicultural Books. In this article, you’ll find insight and recommendations on selecting books related to Native Americans, Latinos, African Americans, Jews and Asian Americans.

Jane Yolen has written more than 250 books and has received numerous literary accolades and awards. She has written books for children and adults of all ages covering a wide range of subjects and genres. You can read all about her and her work at



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Written by Coleen Salley
Illustrated by Janet Stevens

This story puts a new spin on the timeless Southern tale of a “noodlehead” who interprets everything he is told far too literally. The silly and lovable possum protagonist repeatedly tries (and fails) to achieve the common sense that seems to come so easily to others. While his mama tries to set him straight about how to bring home various treats from his auntie, this “sweet little patootie” can’t seem to get anything right. But you’re in for a surprise – Epossumondas just might be smarter than he lets on.

Potluck of Fun:
Awarded the Irma S. and James H. Black Honor for Excellence in Children's Literature, this book is the first in a series of three about this irresistible character. Check out the other titles, Why Epossumondas Has No Hair on His Tail and Epossumondas Saves the Day (Harcourt).

These books are perfect for reading aloud – providing rich opportunities for using character voices. Colleen Salley is a renowned storyteller herself and a veteran children’s literature professor. To hear her reading Epossumondas, go to, enter Epossumondas in the Search Title box and click on the Bonus Material link next to the book title. While Coleen Salley opts to read the whole story in one voice, you can experiment and play with the voices even more. Let yourself go and have fun trying out a southern, New Orleans drawl for the narrator as well as voices for the animal characters.

Janet Stevens has illustrated many children’s books and received a Caldecott Honor for Tops & Bottoms (Harcourt). You can find out more about her background, books and artistic process at


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Tikki Tikki Tembo
Retold by Arlene Mosel
Illustrated by Blair Lent

In this classic retelling of a traditional Chinese folktale, we discover the evolution of one of this culture’s customs for naming sons. In ancient times, first-born sons were given very long and respectable names, while second-born sons were given short, insignificant names. Such was the case in one mountain village family: the second-born son was named Chang, while the first-born son was named Tikki tikki tembo-no sa rembo-chari bari ruchi-pip peri pembo. When the first-born son falls into a well and his little brother has to get help, that beautifully long name gets in the way and makes a dangerous situation even more treacherous – forever changing the practice of naming sons.

Potluck of Fun:
Some Native Americans give two names to a person. Their first name is given at birth. Then a second name, based on some accomplishment achieved during their youth, is given when they reach adulthood. Many names have stories behind them. Talk to your children about the story or significance of their names. You can find out more about the etymology and history of first names at

Books that incorporate tongue twisters, repeating refrains and rhymes are wonderful for reading aloud and can be great tools for supporting the development of such skills as articulation and phonemic awareness. They also generate laughter and enjoyment, particularly those with tongue twisters that are challenging for both children and adults to repeat. For humorous poems and stories that are sure to draw smiles and chuckles while playing with language and the sounds of words, check out selections by Shel Silverstein, Jack Prelutsky and, of course, Dr. Seuss.

At the award-winning Absolutely Whootie: Stories to Grow By Web site (, you will find more than 100 hand-picked and kid-tested folk and fairy tales from more than 50 different countries. Click on Folk & Fairy Tales from Around the World that Help Kids Grow. Then search for stories by age, origin, type and/or message. You can also see list of stories associated with special occasions, holidays and specific topics.



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Flossie and the Fox
Written by Patricia C. McKissack
Illustrated by Rachel Isadora
Dial Books for Young Readers

Usually it’s the sly and wily fox that outsmarts other characters in stories, but not in this one! Big Mama sends young Flossie Finley on an errand to help neighbors whose chicken coop has been raided by a fox. Big Mama warns Flossie to steer clear of the crafty creature, but Flossie realizes she’s never even seen a fox. When she encounters a strange creature that tries to convince her he is a fox, this feisty little girl “outfoxes” him as she conquers fear, uses quick thinking and observation and completes the task she has set out to do. This story provides a timeless lesson in ingenuity, attitude and observation infused with the colorful dialect of the rural South.

Potluck of Fun:
In this book, the usual victim is made a heroine; the usual villain is outsmarted. The elements of the traditional story of Little Red Riding Hood have been altered to create a new story with a humorous and unexpected ending. Talk with your children about the similarities and differences between this book and Little Red Riding Hood. Try taking one of your favorite stories and create a new story from a different point of view with your children.

The expressive illustrations in this book invite the reader to ad-lib dialog and riff on the storyline. When re-reading this book, try combining reading aloud and storytelling by picking up on openings to add your own flavor to the story.

Long before she became a writer, Patricia McKissack was a good listener. She listened to her grandmother’s “hair-raising” ghost stories, to her mother’s dramatization of a Dunbar poem and to her grandfather’s masterful storytelling (he told her the story of Flossie and the Fox as a child). In keeping with the family tradition, Patricia McKissack has written many books for children and has received numerous prestigious awards. Read more about Patricia and her books, as well as those she has authored with her husband Fredrick, at Under Features, click on Meet Authors and Illustrators and select the link for McKissack, Patricia and Fredrick from the alphabetical list.


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The Mysterious Tadpole (25th Anniversary Edition)
Written and illustrated by Steven Kellogg
Dial Books for Young Readers

This tale combines fantasy, adventure and hilarity as a young boy faces the challenges of a unique new pet. Louis’s Uncle McAllister gives him a tadpole straight from Scotland for his birthday. Louis feeds Alphonse a diet of cheeseburgers, and it soon becomes obvious that this is no ordinary “tadpole.” Louis struggles to keep up with his ever-growing pet as he gets too big for his jar, the sink and even the bathtub. When Alphonse reaches epic proportions, a call to Uncle McAllister reveals that his origins might be the key to his seemingly endless growth.

Potluck of Fun:
The Mysterious Tadpole was first published in 1977 and was named an ALA Notable Book. The new edition provides the opportunity to retell the story. Author/illustrator Steven Kellogg takes full advantage of color, language, nuance, and whimsy in the 25th anniversary edition, which features a revised text and full-color illustrations. He explains his reasons for revising the book in an author’s note. After reading the author’s note together, talk with your children about the idea of revising a book. Ask them to pick one of their books to revise either textually or artistically or both. You could both try revising on your own and then compare your versions or work on a single revision together.

Since 1967, Steven Kellogg has written and/or illustrated more than 90 children’s books including A Rose for Pinkerton (Dial), Is Your Mama a Llama? and If You Decide to Go to the Moon (Scholastic). Read more about Steven Kellogg and his books at

An activity to extend this book in a realistic and even scientific way would be to witness the metamorphosis of a real tadpole into a frog. You could do this by reading nonfiction books on this subject, like Frog (Watch Me Grow) [DK Publishing] and From Tadpole to Frog (How Living Things Grow) [Heinemann]. You may also be able to see real tadpoles and frogs at a wildlife center. Or, if you’re feeling adventurous and are prepared to give some loving care, there are tadpole kits you can order by mail.

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Zomo The Rabbit: A Trickster Tale from West Africa
Told and illustrated
by Gerald McDermott

The witty and cunning Zomo is known, not for his strength or size, but for his ingenuity. Still, Zomo believes his cleverness is not enough. He implores Sky God to give him wisdom, and Sky God agrees provided Zomo accomplishes three seemingly impossible tasks. Fueled by his uniquely resourceful and irrepressible nature, Zomo sets out to prove his worthiness. Will he be able to fulfill his mission?

The illustrations, in vivid colors and geometric shapes inspired by West African textiles, make this tale spring to life. Even the clothing worn by Zomo – a dashiki and cap – reflect the culture from which the character originates. Children and adults alike will be delighted by this charismatic rabbit and by the story’s unexpected ending.

Potluck of Fun:
Gerald McDermott has created numerous children’s books that retell legends, fables and myths from a wide variety of cultures including five animal trickster books. He presents each tale with simple and straightforward language alongside illustrations that reflect the culture of origin through color, shape and symbolism. He received the Caldecott Medal for Arrow to the Sun, a Pueblo myth, and two of his works have been named Caldecott Honor Books: Anansi the Spider: A Tale from the Ashanti and Raven: A Trickster Tale from the Pacific Northwest. Read more about this fascinating author/illustrator at

For an online mini-lesson plan using this book with children in Kindergarten through Grade 2, check out Under Services, click on Instant Web Quest. Click Search and enter “Zomo the Rabbit” in the Search box (make sure the Exact Phrase button is selected). Click on the resulting Zomo link and go through each menu item or click on Teacher’s Page for the full plan. While designed for classroom use, there are ideas – such as making your own dashikis and retelling the story – that are perfect for families, too.

A great way to expand on and reinforce reading experiences is by doing related art projects. Gerald McDermott’s style of illustration, with its bold colors and geometric shapes, is perfect for inspiring creativity in children and adults. One idea for extending Zomo the Rabbit is for children to draw their favorite scene. You can ask them to try imitating Gerald McDermott’s style or recreate the scene altogether in their own style. Then make sure you talk about their drawings – asking them to describe the images and explain why they chose a particular scene or certain colors and so on. A group of second and third grade students at Shelton’s Primary Education Center in Berkeley, California did this type of activity, and you can see some of their artwork by going to and selecting Group 4 under School Age Program.

The story of Zomo originated in Nigeria, and similar stories and characters have emerged over time in the oral tradition and storytelling of other African countries, the Carribean and the United States. The power of storytelling lies in its combination of entertainment and education: it is a wonderful vehicle for relating important life lessons, cultural information and more in ways that engross and amuse listeners. Story Arts (, created by professional storyteller and author Heather Forest, is a terrific resource for multicultural storytelling. The Storytelling in the Classroom section is fabulous not just for teachers, but for other professionals and parents, too. It examines Why Storytelling? – pinpointing what storytelling does for children’s academic and social success – and links to other vital categories like Retelling Folktales, Exploring Cultural Roots Through Storytelling and more. The Story Library section provides Stories in a Nutshell – more than 35 brief, ready-to-tell stories from a variety of cultures – and Aesop’s ABC – more than 25 selected fables.



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King Midas: The Golden Touch
Retold and illustrated by Demi
Margaret K. McElderry Books

In Greek mythology, the gods and goddesses inhabit and control elements of nature like the sun, the oceans and even lightning. The people of ancient Greece routinely pray to these deities for blessings and support as well as to express gratitude. King Midas, however, has no use for prayer and little to no respect for the gods and goddesses. When the king unwittingly does a favor for Dionysus, “the god of feasting and merriment,” he is granted one wish. Foolishly and greedily, he wishes for everything he touches to turn to gold. This wish backfires into more of a curse and when King Midas is mercifully relieved of his golden touch, he finally changes his ways. Lavish watercolor and ink illustrations are embellished with gold leaf, making for a visually stunning presentation of a timeless story about what is really valuable in life.

Potluck of Fun:
If your children enjoy this book, then go ahead and explore more books that feature Greek and Roman mythology. You can even create a mythology journal in which children can keep track of the stories and books they read; their favorite gods, goddesses, creatures, heroes and other characters; their interpretations of the lessons conveyed through the stories and more.

Check out Scholastic’s Myths, Folktales & Fairy Tales Internet project at From the main page, click on Online Activities in the menu bar. Then choose either the 3-5 or the 6-8 grade level, click on Writing and then on Myths, Folktales & Fairy Tales. Under Myths, you’ll find links for Myth Writing with Jane Yolen, Explore Myths from Different Countries and Create Your Own Myth. Through these links you and your children can read myths from 15 different countries as well as try your hand at writing your own myths. There are also links for a Teacher’s Guide and Related Booklist. And don’t forget to dig into the Folktales and Fairy Tales sections, too!

Demi has written and/or illustrated more than 130 children’s books; many of which feature myths, folktales, legends and fairy tales drawn from Asian and Indian cultures. She has been honored with such awards as the Carol D. Reiser Book Award, New York Times Best Illustrated Book and Oppenheim Toy Portfolio Platinum Award. Among her best-known works are One Grain of Rice (Scholastic), The Empty Pot and The Firebird (Henry Holt).

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The Nightingale
Retold by Stephen Mitchell
Illustrated by Bagram Ibatoulline
Candlewick Press

The Emperor of China is beloved by his people and surrounded by all the material riches and comforts of the world. When he discovers that a remarkable nightingale with a celebrated song exists somewhere in his Empire, he orders his attendants to find her and bring her to the palace straight away. The nightingale graciously agrees to come to the palace and sing for the Emperor. Her song so enchants him that he commands her to remain in the palace. Soon after, a gift of a mechanical gold and bejeweled nightingale arrives, and the Emperor foolishly falls for the glamour of the gift over the beauty and preciousness of the real bird. But when he is struck with a serious illness, the Emperor learns some crucial lessons about freedom, possession and the value of the authenticity over high-priced imitation.

This retelling of the Hans Christian Andersen fairy tale remains true to the humor and moral of the original and is beautifully enhanced by intricate and breathtaking illustrations.

Potluck of Fun:
Together with your children, read the original Hans Christian Andersen fairy tale and another retelling, such as Jerry Pinkney’s The Nightingale (Dial). Talk about and compare the books. What do the different versions have in common? What is different and unique about each one? Why do you think Stephen Mitchell, Jerry Pinkney (or other appropriate authors) chose to retell the story in the way they did? If you were to write a version of the story, what would keep the same as the original and what would you change? Consider trying to write and illustrate a new version together. And, once you’ve had this conversation, read the Note on This Retelling at the back of the Stephen Mitchell book.

You can also discuss the story themes, characters and other issues after reading the book. Here are some questions you can use to get thing rolling: Why the nightingale is the hero of the story instead of the Emperor? What lesson(s) does the story teach us? What if everyone started caging nightingales because of their beautiful songs?

At the Internet Bird Collection ( search (by species common name) for nightingale. Then click on the resulting links that indicate video is available (appearance of a video camera icon) to see images and hear the songs of different nightingales.

At the Web site of The Free Sound Project ( you can sample a variety of clips that highlight nightingale songs by searching for the word “nightingale” (deselect the Tags and Descriptions boxes and select the Filenames box before submitting search).


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Sinbad: From the Tales of the Thousand and One Nights
Retold and illustrated by Ludmila Zeman
Tundra Books

In this introductory foray into the epic tales of Sinbad the Sailor, we meet Scheherazade and hear some of the wonderful stories of adventure she told to the King, keeping him entranced so her life would be spared. This book entices readers with visions of island-sized whales, elephant-carrying birds and a snake-filled valley of priceless diamonds. Each page reveals artwork that conveys the feel and style of Persian rugs with rich detail and golden hues. An author’s note provides background on the stories and information on the author’s research. It also invitingly hints at more fantastic voyages beyond the scope of this volume.

Potluck of Fun:
The exquisite illustrations in this book truly capture the adventure and cultural essence. Spend some time simply enjoying the artwork – pouring over the details in the intricate drawings – with your child. Talk about the colors, borders, designs, etc. and why each of you thinks Ludmila Zeman chose these elements. Read more about this author/illustrator, including an interview with her, at by clicking on Authors & Illustrators and then selecting her name from the main alphabetical list and from the Profiles Online list (each link leads to different information).

There are countless versions and books involving The Tales of 1001 Nights/The Arabian Nights/Sinbad the Sailor. For this age group, look for The Seven Voyages of Sinbad the Sailor retold by John Yeoman (McElderry/Chrysalis) and One Thousand and One Arabian Nights retold by Geraldine McCaughrean (Oxford University Press). Read different versions and compare them (as in the Potluck of Fun for The Nightingale above).




Entertaining and Educating Babies and Toddlers (Usborne Parents' Guides)
Written by Robyn Gee and Susan Meredith
Usborne/EDC Publishing

A concisely written handbook for parents of children from birth to 5 years old, this guide contains a wealth of information arranged in short chapters that don’t intimidate. Chapter headings include Things to Feel and Hold, Imitating and Pretending and Music, Songs and Rhymes. A comprehensive chart provides the Guide to Stages of Development for children from birth to two-and-a-half years old. This chart summarizes development in terms of general physical factors as well as specific visual, manual, verbal, and auditory milestones and suggests toys and activities related to each. In fact, the entire book is packed with hundreds of play and activity ideas to support your child’s growth. You will also find more than 20 songs and rhymes with actions for parents and children to do together. This book is extremely user-friendly, with many small and charming illustrations that clarify concepts.


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Read it Aloud! A Parent's Guide to Sharing Books with Young Children
Written by Monty Haas and Laurie Joy Haas
The Reading Railroad

Read it Aloud! joyfully shows parents, teachers, librarians, volunteer readers and anyone who reads with children how to use and expand upon children’s books to spark communication, growth and wonder. With chapters like Getting Comfortable with Your Voice, The Noisy Alphabet and Reading Gymnastics for Pre-K and K, this book encourages a lively and playful approach to reading aloud and wordplay – an approach that will fuel exciting, inspirational and imaginative experiences for you and your child to share and to treasure. You will discover countless easy-to-apply techniques and strategies for bringing books to life and creating an appetite for reading. Non-competitive Win-Win Word Games ensure further enjoyment and learning. The tone and text are welcoming and accessible, as is the presentation of the information itself.



Melanie Kerr helps children appreciate their own culture and experience other cultures through storytelling based on bilingual books like:

Sing, Little Sack! ¡Canta, Saquito!
Retold and adapted by Nina Jaffe
Illustrated by Ray Cruz

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Laurie Joy calls attention to the non-competitive Win-Win Word Games contained in:

Read it Aloud! A Parent's Guide to Sharing Books with Young Children
Written by Monty Haas and Laurie Joy Haas
The Reading Railroad

(See this book’s Summary in the recommendations for parents above.)


Monty introduces Martine to a colorful and imaginative story about a girl, her grandmother and a Caribbean island in the bilingual book:

Written by Arthur Dorros
Illustrated by Elisa Kleven


Mared Alicea-Westort remembers that her grandmother created stories with built-in lessons based on the popular Puerto Rican folk character found in such books as:

Juan Bobo Goes to Work
Retold by Marisa Montes
Illustrated by Joe Cepeda




Eshu Bumpus and Motoko find rich resources for their multicultural storytelling in books like:

The People Could Fly: Black American Folktales
Written by Virginia Hamilton
Illustrated by Leo and Diane Dillon






The Shining Princess and Other Japanese Legends
Retold by Eric Quayle
Illustrated by Michael Foreman
Little, Brown & Co.


© 2006 Words That Cook   All rights reserved  Box 411, Natick, MA  01760  USA

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