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Sing-Along Songs (Three Books and Tape Set)
Adapted by Nadine Bernard Westcott and Mary Ann Hoberman
Illustrated by Nadine Bernard Westcott
Megan Tingley/Little,Brown

This set of three rhyming board books is packaged together with an audiotape of all three songs. Miss Mary Mack is adapted by Mary Ann Hoberman and illustrated by Nadine Bernard Westcott. In this whimsical version, Miss Mary Mack (all dressed in black, of course) sees an elephant jumping the fence and wants to keep him. The Lady with the Alligator Purse is based on a hilarious old jump rope rhyme about a baby called Tiny Tim and adapted and illustrated by Nadine Bernard Westcott. Neither the doctor nor the nurse can save the day, but the lady with the alligator purse just might hold the key. Skip to My Lou is also adapted and illustrated by Nadine Bernard Westcott. This variation is about a boy who is left alone for a time on a farm. When his parents return, the house is a marvelous mess thanks to the barnyard animals. Each of these books/songs is lively and engaging – perfect for practicing the sounds of language through rhythm and rhyme.

Potluck of Fun:
In Sing-Along Stories 2 (Megan Tingley), Nadine Bernard Westcott and Mary Ann Hoberman collaborate once again to bring you and your children another set of three board books and one audiotape containing adaptations of I Know an Old Lady Who Swallowed a Fly, The Eeensy-Weensy Spider and The Wheels on the Bus.

At click on the link for MoJo the mouse’s Musical Mouseum to find a multitude of lyrics for lullabies, fingerplays and silly songs as well as songs about food, nature and more. Many of the songs feature both the lyrics and the music.

At you will find numerous rhymes and songs for toddlers and preschoolers. Although this site is designed as a resource for preschool and kindergarten teachers, there is a good deal of free material that works well for at-home use by parents. Click on the navigation link for Rhymes, Songs and Fingerplays to discover many fingerplays, action poems, nursery rhymes and songs organized by themes such as Animals, Counting and Numbers and Special Occasions.

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Pete’s a Pizza
Written and illustrated by William Steig

What do you do when a rainy day puts your kids in a bad mood? Turn them into pizza, of course! When the rain keeps Pete from going out to play with his friends, his father gets a wacky idea for cheering him up. Carried to and placed on the kitchen table, Pete becomes a slab of dough his father tosses and kneads. Then he’s covered with oil (actually water), tomatoes (checkers) and mozzarella cheese (pieces of paper). Pete’s father sets him in the pizza oven (the couch) to cook. When Pete is returned to the kitchen table for slicing, he tries to run off, but his dad chases and soon catches him in a big hug. By this time, the sun has come out and Pete is in a much better mood as he heads outside to meet up with his friends. This delightful romp is sure to turn frowns upside down!

Potluck of Fun:
William Steig authored more than 30 picture books (including Shrek! [Farrar, Straus and Giroux] upon which the film of the same name is based) and novels before he passed away in 2003 at the age of 96. In addition to winning a Caldecott Medal in 1970 for Sylvester and the Magic Pebble (Aladdin), William Steig received numerous accolades throughout his career. You can find out more about such honors, the author’s life and other pursuits, his books and more at

To find great creative activity ideas for those rainy days, check out and click on Arts & Crafts. Projects are organized into categories like Holiday & Seasonal, Crafts by Age and Quick & Easy. Also, click on the Search All Crafts link and look at the Browse by Craft Group drop-down menu for more categories such as Indoor Boredom Busters and Puppet Pals. Connect these activities and projects with books you and your children are reading. For example, when reading a book with an autumn theme or setting, follow up by making Autumn Place Mats; or when you’ve shared a book about an elephant or a dragon, create Sock Puppets of these animal characters and use them to retell the story in your own words.

And for some food fun for you and your kids, check out the Recipes section of the Web site ( Go to the Search All Recipes link and enter the word “pizza” in the Search Recipe Finder – Recipe Name or Ingredients box. You’ll get more than 50 resulting recipes, including many interesting and amusing variations on traditional pizza.


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Rap a Tap Tap: Here’s Bojangles, Think of That!
Written and illustrated by Leo and Diane Dillon
Blue Sky Press

Through distinct gouache illustrations and bouncy rhyming text, children are introduced to Bill “Bojangles” Robinson (1878-1949), an African American tap dance pioneer and an incredible entertainer. Tall, slim and debonair, Mr. Bojangles dances his way through the streets of old New York (and the pages of this book) endearing himself to everyone he meets, from children at play to high society adults to homeless people. Rhythm and rhyme carry readers along, conveying a sense of movement and dance as does the clever technique for depicting Robinson’s feet in motion. The repeating refrain – “Rap a tap tap, think of that!” – screams out for child participation. At the end of the book, a brief afterword provides some biographical information about this beloved and important celebrity.

Potluck of Fun:
The husband and wife team of Leo and Diane Dillon have been creating collaborative art for more than 40 years. They have received numerous honors for their work illustrating children’s books, including a Coretta Scott King Honor for Rap a Tap Tap and two consecutive Caldecott Medals for Margaret Musgrove’s Ashanti to Zulu (Puffin) and Verna Aardema’s Why Mosquitoes Buzz in People’s Ears (Dial Books).

Check out and click on the Online Activities link for Authors & Books. In the Book Match box, click on Browse by Author or Illustrator. Select Diane Dillon or Leo Dillon from the alphabetical list to read some biographical information. From each link, you can also connect to an Interview Transcript and List of Works. The interview was conducted by students and begins with questions about Rap a Tap Tap.

To find out more about Bill Robinson visit, click on Fun Zone, then Did You Know? and finally, The Famous Mr. Bojangles. At The Internet Movie Database (, try entering “Bill Bojangles Robinson” in the Search the IMDB box to get a list of Robinson’s movies, a mini-biography and trivia about this tap dance legend.

You and your kids can learn more about tap dancing by exploring Check out categories like Who’s Who in Tap, Sounds of Tap, Glossary & Notation and more.

If your child seems intrigued by tap dancing, look for children’s events in your area that feature tap dancing and/or consider checking out local tap dance classes for kids.

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A-Tisket A-Tasket
Written by Ella Fitzgerald
Illustrated by Ora Eitan
Philomel Books

Every child can identify with the little boy in this book who loses, or at least misplaces, something precious to him. The lyrics of this familiar song, adapted and sung by the legendary Ella Fitzgerald and arranged by Van Alexander, become the text of this book. In this case, they tell the story of a little boy who loses his “green and yellow basket” and the little girl who finds it and cruises around the city with it on her arm. The boy frets and fusses over his loss, darting from place to place in search of his cherished basket. Will he ever find it? The illustrations by Ora Eitan are imaginative and vibrant – combining gouache, cut-paper collage and computer-generated art to create a three-dimensional feel.

Potluck of Fun:
After reading this book with your children, it might be fun to hear the song and even try singing along with it. You can find the song on numerous CDs, including Ella Fitzgerald 75th Birthday Celebration Box Set (1993), The Best of Ella Fitzgerald (1996), Pure Ella: The Very Best of Ella Fitzgerald (1998) and Jukebox Ella: The Complete Verve Singles Volume I (2003) all on the Verve label. Look for these titles at your local library or music store.

To learn, hear and see more about Ella, visit the national PBS Web site ( and enter the name “Ella Fitzgerald” in the Search box. This will result in numerous links to biographical information as well as audio and video from such programs as American Masters, JAZZ: A Film by Ken Burns, African American World and the Online NewsHour.

The husband and wife team of author Andrea Davis Pinkney and illustrator Brian Pinkney collaborate on picture books and have published two books for this age group about jazz icons. Check out Ella Fitzgerald: The Tale of a Vocal Virtuosa and the Caldecott Honor Book, Duke Ellington: The Piano Prince and His Orchestra (Jump At The Sun).

At, click on Education and, under Distance Learning, select Jazz for Young People Online to delve into the history of jazz and jazz artists. Although designed to complement a certain curriculum, this site is terrific for pure exploration. You’ll find the information presented in a variety of ways: readings, audio, video, photographs and more. Current lessons cover such individuals and themes as Louis Armstrong, Improvisation and Big Band Express. Some content may be beyond your 3- to 6-year-olds comprehension level, so cruise through the site yourself first and find which elements your child might enjoy.

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The Usborne Book of Everyday Words (Everyday Words series)
Edited by Felicity Brooks
Illustrated and Designed by Jo Litchfield
Usborne/EDC Publishing

Word-object association and vocabulary building are strongly encouraged and supported in this book. Each double-page spread places and labels more than 15 objects in a familiar setting and prompts you and your child to find certain objects. For example, “Find six cassettes in the living room” or “Find four spiders in the bedroom.” Words around the edges of each page are also helpful for children who are beginning to read. At the back of the book, you’ll find an alphabetical index of more than 500 words for quick searches. This index can be helpful to you in directing your child’s attention to specific objects or settings and it can also help to prepare older children for using dictionaries and other reference materials.

Potluck of Fun:
As you read the book with your child, talk about each setting and see if you can name other objects that aren’t shown, but that you might expect to find in that particular setting. You can also discuss the objects depicted in the book by asking your child questions like, “Do we have a clock in the kitchen? How is our clock different from this one? How is your doll different from the one in the book? Do our cups look like these? How are they different? How are they the same?” Learning new vocabulary in a real and meaningful context increases retention and comprehension.

The Usborne Everyday Words series features books that highlight other languages, including French and Spanish. These books can be great tools for young children who are learning to speak a foreign language or at least getting to know the names of familiar objects in another language.

Try creating homemade flash cards with your child to help build their vocabulary. Take some time together to observe your own family’s kitchen, living room, backyard and so on. In each setting, identify objects and create a card for each. You can use index cards or recipe cards, or cut scrap paper to the size you like. On one side of the card you and your child can draw a picture of the object or paste an image cut from a magazine. On the reverse of the card, write the name of the object and the setting in which you found it. Then stack the cards in a spot you and your children can easily access. Take a few minutes each day to review the cards by showing the drawing of the object to a child and asking her to tell you the name of the object and/or name places where you might find it.


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The Honest-to-Goodness Truth
Written by Patricia C. McKissack
Illustrated by Giselle Potter

In this provocative book, Patricia McKissack tackles an age-old dilemma. When Libby gets caught telling a fib to her mama, she swears from that moment on, she will only speak the truth. As she keeps her promise, Libby finds that sometimes the truth has negative consequences; sometimes the truth hurts people’s feelings. When the tables turn, Libby is saddened by the truth about her beloved horse and experiences first hand just how upsetting words can be. She comes to understand that while telling the truth is imperative, it’s just as important to consider people’s feelings and choose your words with care and sensitivity.

Potluck of Fun:
Use this book to stimulate discussions with your children about truth and lies. Ask your child what she thinks about the truths Libby tells that end up hurting other people. Ask her how she might handle the same situations herself. Share with your child your own beliefs about truth telling. Give her examples of situations you’ve experienced where you found it difficult to tell the absolute truth and be honest about how you handled it. Don’t miss out on this opportunity to deal with this complicated, but important subject.

If you’d like some professional guidance on the subject of children and lying, go to and enter the word “lying” in the Search box. Click on the resulting link for Why Kids Lie. This article deals with lying as it connects to different age groups. It addresses the reasons children lie and suggests what you can do about it. The article includes advice from experienced counselors, psychologists and psychiatrists.

Patricia McKissack is an award-winning author of children’s and young adult books. She has received numerous honors for her writing including the books, The Dark-Thirty: Southern Tales of the Supernatural (Yearling), a Newbery Honor Book and Mirandy and Brother Wind, a Caldecott Honor Book and winner of a Coretta Scott King Award. Patricia and her husband, Fredrick McKissack, have written about 100 books over the course of more than 20 years. They mainly write biographies and nonfiction books about African Americans, although Patricia writes fiction on her own.

If your children enjoy the works of Patricia and Fredrick McKissack and also have an interest in writing, check out and click on the Online Activities link. Then select Writing with Writers and click on Biography Writing to take an online workshop together with the McKissacks.

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Autumnblings: Poems and Paintings
Written and illustrated by Douglas Florian
Greenwillow Books

Children are bound to be to be enthralled by this masterful collection of poems celebrating autumn in all its glory – falling leaves, migrating geese, Thanksgiving celebrations and apple picking. “Purple skin / And yellow pulp / Take a bite, then / Gulp / Gulp / Gulp.” Wit and whimsy infuse this collection along with irresistible wordplay like onomatopoeia, invented words (like the title itself) and rhythm and rhyme. With such exceptional verse set alongside bright yet minimalist paintings, autumn just might become your child’s favorite season! These poems are clever, funny and simply perfect for reading aloud when chilly winds begin to blow.

Potluck of Fun:
Autumnblings is one of four books of seasonal poetry written and illustrated by Douglas Florian. The other titles are Winter Eyes, Handsprings and Summersaults (Greenwillow). Florian’s other honored and entertaining poetry collections include Beast Feast; Lizards, Frogs, and Polliwogs; In the Swim and Mammalabilia (Harcourt).

Once you’ve read this book with your children (and possibly some of the other season-focused collections), start a conversation about the seasons. Ask your children what what impressions come to mind when they think of the different seasons – everything from holidays to changes in the weather and landscape to the types of outdoor activities they do. This could be a perfect topic at the dinner table that could carry you and your family through the meal. Once the dishes are done, expand the conversation by picking some of those seasonal features and writing descriptive phrases about them. Take those phrases and form them into poems. You might be surprised to discover that we each have a poet’s voice.

To further encourage your children’s poetry writing in a playful way, visit the official Web site of Shel Silverstein ( There is plenty to explore here including: Let’s Have Some Fun with games and more For Kids Only! and Ideas for Teachers & Parents with activity and classroom kits as well as book and poem lists.

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The Wonderful Happens
Written by Cynthia Rylant
Illustrated by Coco Dowley

This lovely and metrical book will encourage you and your children to appreciate all of the little things that happen around you every day – birds flying, roses growing, bees buzzing, stars glowing – and the big things, too – you, your children, each human life. In the midst of the hustle and bustle of daily life, it’s easy to miss the marvels that surround us. Take your time reading this book and you’ll see just how much wonderful happens in each and every moment, whether we’re paying attention or not.

Potluck of Fun:
Other award-winning books by Cynthia Rylant for this age group include: The Relatives Came (Aladdin) and When I Was Young in the Mountains (Dutton), both Caldecott Honor Books. She has also written the Henry and Mudge books, which are part of Simon & Schuster’s Ready-to-Read series for newly-independent readers in this age group.

You and your kids can read an open letter from Cynthia Rylant by visiting, clicking on the Authors link and then selecting her name from the alphabetical list. In the letter, she talks about her childhood, things she loves and her writing.

This book gives you a terrific opportunity to talk to your kids about the importance of finding the “wonderful” in each day. Ask them questions like, what was wonderful in your day? What is wonderful in our home? What is wonderful in our family? What is wonderful in our yard or in the park? By getting children to think about and recognize the wonders of life, they’ll have a positive outlook and, when they do have a bad day and are feeling down, it will be easier to redirect their thoughts to more cheerful things.

Wild TV at “celebrates the variety and accessibility of the natural world” whether we look in our own backyards or in our parks. Wild TV is a program created by WNET, a PBS station in New York. Links for Birdwatching, Wildlife Rehabilitation, Endangered Honeybees, Pet Responsibility and Backyard Naturalist lead to detailed information, video clips and more related links. The Resources area of the site provides information on both Online Resources and Print Resources about animals and nature.


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The Night Has Ears: African Proverbs
Selected and illustrated by Ashley Bryan
Atheneum Books for Young Readers

This collection of 26 beautifully-illustrated proverbs contains humorous, serious and wise sayings derived from African literature. Having grown up with a mother who regularly used proverbs, Ashley Bryan was drawn to these sayings and began searching African stories for such morsels of wisdom and wit. Each selected proverb is accompanied by a stunning stained glass-like illustration that combines human, animal and symbolic elements. And while each saying is attributed to a specific African tribe, Bryan says many were well known in a variety of tribes. It’s fun to imagine the story origins of nuggets like “A man with a cough cannot conceal himself,” “No one knows the story of tomorrow’s dawn” and “Never try to catch a black cat at night” on top of contemplating the significance of these sayings in your own life.

Potluck of Fun:
Ashley Bryan was born in New York City, taught art at Dartmouth college and now lives on a small island off the coast of Maine. He has written or illustrated more than 30 books and received several honors for his books, including Beat the Story-Drum, Pum-Pum and Lion and the Ostrich Chicks. At, click on the RIF Reading Planet graphic. Then select Book Zone and Meet the Authors and Illustrators. Click on Ashley Bryan in the list of authors and illustrators to read about the honors he’s received and an interview. There is also a list of his books, and you can click on the titles for book information and an opportunity for your kids to submit their own book reviews. Ashley Bryan is also a master storyteller and puppetmaker. To get a sense of his powerful voice and ability to engage audiences, visit The Library of Congress Web site ( and type Ashley Bryan in the Search box. Then select the 2002 National Book Festival link for a brief biography and a link to a Webcast of Ashley reading at the festival.

As you read this book with your children, try pointing to objects in the pictures and coming up with a story that ties in the plot with the proverb on the page. You could start off the story, supplying the first few lines, then ask your child to add a sentence to continue the story and keep taking turns until your story is complete. As you do this, consider writing down your story. Your child could then draw more illustrations, maybe even imitating Ashley Bryan’s style, and you can make a whole book together.

At, you can learn a lot about Central African food, cooking and more, including the connections between certain African proverbs and specific recipes. From the home page, scroll your mouse over the navigation menu on the left-hand side. Scroll over About Africa and select the link for African Proverbs.

A list of Helpful African Proverbs with their corresponding tribe affiliations and some interpretations of meanings can be found at by selecting Kane Mathis – Musician and then African Proverbs.

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Written by Andrew Clements
Illustrated by Brian Selznick

Nick Allen is a sharp, creative and independent thinker whose antics nearly outsmart even himself. On his first day of fifth grade, a not-so-innocent tactic to avoid homework brings out a brilliant idea that yields both fun and unexpected celebrity. When Nick decides to coin a new word for pen – “Frindle” – a fascinating chain of events ensues. A remarkable teacher’s belief in the power of words shines throughout the entire story, as does a young man’s tenacity in seeing a creative idea successfully realized.

Potluck of Fun:

You and your children can learn more about Frindle and Andrew Clements at, where you’ll find FAQ that delve into the author’s inspiration and writing process.

Andrew Clements and Brian Selznick have collaborated on a number of other children’s novels rooted in the school experience, such as A Week in the Woods, The Janitor’s Boy and The Landry News (Aladdin).

If your child seems intrigued by words and their origins, dictionaries and other reference information, he may be interested to know that there are a number of different kinds of dictionaries that can be found on the Internet. Check out the Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary and Thesaurus at For a Biographical Dictionary, where you can find information on more than 25,000 noteworthy individuals from ancient times to the present day go to The Internet Picture Dictionary ( can be a great resource for learning the word for a particular animal, musical instrument, vegetable and more in five different languages: English, French, Italian, German and Spanish. At you’ll find an extensive Dictionary of Art and Visual Terminology. Images, pronunciation guides and “clickable” words that allow for cross-referencing complement the definitions. If your children are Lord of the Rings fans, check out the Tolkien Dictionary at Go to for a Math Dictionary that explains math terms in simple language with definitions and examples that often contain animation and/or interactive elements.


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The Usborne Book of Puppets
Written by Ken Haines and Gill Harvey
Usborne/EDC Publishing

Would you like to make expressive puppets with your children using simple, inexpensive materials? Sock puppets, glove puppets, finger puppets, rod puppets, mouth puppets, shadow puppets, even marionettes – all of these are included in The Usborne Book of Puppets. Easy-to-follow instructions using everyday materials and helpful illustrations are provided for not only the puppets, but also for a puppet theatre. You don’t need to be an accomplished artist to create these fantastic puppets, ranging from a hungry hamburger to a clown to a rock star complete with aluminum foil microphone. You’ll have great fun making the puppets, and then you and your children can act out your favorite stories or generate entirely new ones based on the characters you’ve created.


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Monty highlighted some obsolete or “lost” words from the English language in:

Poplollies and Bellibones: A Celebration of Lost Words
Written by Susan Kelz Sperling
Illustrated by George Moran
Clarkson N. Potter Inc


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Audrey Leppanen read to children at the South Boston Neighborhood House from:

The Leopard’s Drum: An Asante Tale from West Africa
Written by Jessica Souhami
Illustrated by Paul McAlinden
Little, Brown & Company






Froggy Gets Dressed
Written by Jonathan London
Illustrated by Frank Remkiewicz


Leave Herbert Alone
Written by Alma Marshak Whitney
Illustrated by David McPhail

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Laurie Joy and Honey and Chip, the Cookie Bookie Bears, demonstrated how to create a fun reading and spelling activity with the book:

My Daddy and Me
Written by Jerry Spinelli
Illustrated by Seymour Chwast
Alfred A. Knopf


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

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