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Do Your Ears Hang Low?
Illustrated by Caroline Jayne Church
Chicken House/Scholastic


Two adorable puppies with long, floppy ears become friends and romp about together, bringing to life the words of this classic children's tune. The illustrations reflect the joy and playfulness of the little pups with a child's spirit. The center foldout pages add an extra element of pleasure. At the close of the book, you will find an illustrated finger play of the song demonstrating motions you and your children can do. With expressive adjectives like low and high, verbs like wobble and wrinkle, children will increase vocabulary in an enjoyable way.


Potluck of Fun:
If you
Google the exact phrase “do your ears hang low” you will find a number of variations on the lyrics. Try singing some of the additional lyrics with your children and making up accompanying gestures that feel natural. If you feel inspired, you could also try creating your own lyrics, perhaps related to other body parts like fingers and toes. As your children get older, they might have their own suggestions, too.


Check out Where Is Thumbkin?: Over 500 Activities to Use With Songs You Already Know (Gryphon House) by Pam Schiller and Thomas Moore. The book organizes songs by month and themes and provides fingerplays and ideas for related activities.


The Eentsy, Weentsy Spider: Fingerplays and Action Rhymes and Pat-a-Cake and Other Play Rhymes (HarperTrophy) by Joanna Cole and Stephanie Calmenson provide rhymes with lively illustrations by Alan Tiegreen that demonstrate the actions to accompany the words.

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Give the Dog a Bone
Written and illustrated by Steven Kellogg
SeaStar Books

Young children are sure to delight in this fanciful reworking of a century-old song as it subtly teaches counting skills with great humor and imagination. After the traditional first verse, the author takes the tune in a whole new direction with the inclusion of hens, chicks, bees and even raptors. You will also find comical commentary from the human and animal characters, all drawn with great detail and bright colors. At the beginning of each verse, attention is drawn to the highlighted number through its numeral character and the appropriate number of bones. At the close of the book, Kellogg provides a note about the song (suggesting accompanying actions and motions), lists the 13 different dog breeds represented and encourages readers to “Count all the dogs!”

Potluck of Fun:
Steven Kellogg, have fun coming up with your own lyrics for this tune. Try relating lyrics to your pets, family members or household items and consider following Kellogg's suggestion by counting all of the dogs and even the other animals in the book.

By following the Nursery Rhymes link at, you will find 18 rhymes that are also songs, including This Old Man (also known as Give the Dog a Bone or Knick Knack Paddy Whack). Each rhyme/song has an individual page featuring the lyrics and a musical track. Nursery rhyme karaoke, here you come!

With titles like The Book of Tapping and Clapping, The Book of Lullabies and The Book of Bounces (Independent Publishers Group), the series of books compiled by John Martin Feierabend feature rhymes, fingerplays and action songs. Of these books, Fred Rogers, creator and host, Mister Rogers' Neighborhood said, "This rich collection of classic treasures that John Feieraband has gathered can easily nourish both children and their adults."


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I Know a Shy Fellow Who Swallowed a Cello
Written by Barbara S. Garriel
Illustrated by John O'Brien
Boyds Mills Press

This entertaining and fantastical adaptation of the folk rhyme and song,
There Was an Old Lady Who Swallowed a Fly, will generate laughter and glee for children and parents alike. As one shy fellow proceeds to swallow not just a cello, but also a harp, a sax, a fiddle and four other musical instruments, the suspense builds. What will happen to this man whose belly can hardly hold much more? The climax is both exciting and funny as musicians and one lone cat anxiously await the return of their instruments. Repetition is built into and expands with each verse, encouraging children to join in the fun and echo the cyclical refrain. The illustrations add an irresistible flair of wit and wackiness.

Potluck of Fun:
Check out the original rhyme in the book,
There Was an Old Lady Who Swallowed a Fly (Viking Books) by Simms Taback. This book was named a Caldecott Honor Book and features bold illustrations and a die-cut hole that lets readers see inside the old lady's stomach as she consumes a variety of creatures.

To print and make a booklet of the rhyme for coloring, go to Follow the links for
Books to Print - Nursery Rhymes - There Was an Old Lady Who Swallowed a Fly.

For more reading ideas and extension activities, check out Click on Teacher Resources and then on Units & Activities. Under “I” in the alphabetical list (because the story relates to insects), click on There Was an Old Lady to find tips for Shared Reading, Math Activities, Resource Links and Related Literature.

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Tell Me One Thing, Dad
Written by Tom Pow
Illustrated by Ian Andrew
Candlewick Press

When Dad's bedtime story doesn't quite put Molly to sleep, she extends her time awake with a game they have clearly played before. Molly asks Dad to tell her just one thing about each of a variety of animals (including one she makes up). Dad follows her lead, confirming he knows which animal she's talking about before revealing the most important thing he knows about it. As it turns out, that one most important thing is the same for all of the animals and for Dad himself. All the while, Molly learns about the animals and about her father's love. Through this charming and endearing story,
Tom Pow shows us just how easily we can initiate special time with children and make sure they understand how much we love them.

Potluck of Fun:
Consider trying this bedtime game with your children by picking a theme (such as animals or insects) and following the pattern of: child-question, adult-confirming description, child-confirmation, adult-most important information. Think about what the most important thing could be. Could it be something everyone or every living thing holds in common?

For some other terrific bedtime books, read the board book The Napping House (Red Wagon Books) by Audrey Wood, The Going to Bed Book (Little Simon) by Sandra Boynton and Bedtime, Maisy! (Candlewick Press) by Lucy Cousins.

You will find more bedtime book suggestions by going to and clicking on the Good Reading link. Then select All Booklists. In The Good Reading Book Lists by Subject area you will find a section on Stages for Babies & Preschoolers and the category, Bedtime.


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Into the Forest
Written and illustrated by Anthony Browne
Candlewick Press

A boy awakens with a fright one night and finds his father gone the next morning. Mom doesn't seem to know where Dad is or when he'll return. She asks her son to deliver a cake to his sick grandmother, but warns him not to go into the forest. Wanting to make the trip quickly, in case his father comes back, the boy takes the forbidden shortcut. Along the way, he encounters characters, scenery and clothing reminiscent of various fairy tales. The forest grows darker and colder. Will the boy make it safely to Grandma's house? And if he does, who or what will he find waiting there?

Potluck of Fun:
Anthony Browne has written and illustrated more than 20 children's books and has received several prestigious awards, including the Kate Greenway Medal (twice), the Kurt Maschler Award (three times) and the Hans Christian Andersen Award. Check out Gorilla and any of the Willy series of books.

Read or re-read classic fairy tales with your children. You could start with those referenced in Into the Forest or revisit some of your favorites. For online texts of some classics, visit, click on the Literacy heading and select Grimms Fairy Tales Collection under Free Read-Online Collections, or and click on the Chronological List link for tales by Hans Christian Andersen.

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The Story Tree: Tales to Read Aloud
Retold by Hugh Lupton
Illustrated by Sophie Fatus
Barefoot Books

The retellings of the seven tales in this collection are enchanting and they impart simple, universal life lessons that children can carry with them for years to come. The quirky and humorous illustrations immediately engage the reader and draw you into this world of folklore. The stories hail from a variety of cultures, including Indian, African American and Jewish, but parents and young readers might notice similarities to stories from other traditions and peoples. One of the great implicit lessons of this book is the fact that there is more that connects us than separates us across cultural and racial lines. The rhythm and repetition in the tales, along with the messages they convey, provide endless opportunities for participation, role-playing, discussion and more.

Potluck of Fun:
In the sources and acknowledgements,
Hugh Lupton admits that some of his retellings are quite different from the original source, while others remain largely the same, but this he says is “the way of the oral tradition.” You should take encouragement from this and understand that it's okay to adapt traditional tales as you see fit.

Visit your local library and check out section 398.2, to find folk tales from all over the world. Sample stories from different cultures and authors or editors. Try to notice and share with your children the commonalities you find across cultures and traditions.

To explore online resources for multicultural storytelling, visit Absolutely Whootie Stories to Grow By ( and click on Folk & Fairy Tales from Around the World that Help Kids Grow. Also, in the Story Library section of, check out the links for Stories in a Nutshell – very brief multicultural folk tales – and Aesop’s ABC – more than 25 selected fables.

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You Read to Me, I'll Read to You:
Very Short Fairy Tales to Read Together

Written by Mary Ann Hoberman
Illustrated by Michael Emberley
Megan Tingley/Little, Brown

Intended for reading aloud in pairs, this book is a fantastic interactive storytelling tool. There are concise, rhyming versions of eight well-known fairy tales, as well as an introduction to set the stage and an ending rhyme to celebrate the experience and anticipate more reading aloud together. The tales - ranging from
The Princess and the Pea to The Three Little Pigs - are presented in new and amusing depictions, and the lines of text are ordered and color-coded for two voices to read aloud separately or in unison. The illustrations add a comical and fanciful flavor, and each tale ends with some form of the same refrain: “You read to me! I'll read to you!”

Potluck of Fun:
For more fun with reading aloud for two or more voices, check out
Paul Fleischman's books I Am Phoenix (HarperTrophy) and Joyful Noise (HarperTrophy), both containing poems for two voices, as well as Big Talk (Candlewick Press), which features poems for four voices. Joyful Noise and Big Talk are intended for reading with children ages 9-12, so consider reviewing the material first and choosing the selections you feel best for sharing with younger children.

Theoni Pappas is the author of Math Talk: Mathematical Ideas for Poems in Two Voices (Wide World Publishing). This book is an excellent tool for demystifying mathematical themes and helping to engage children in math in an enjoyable and user-friendly way.


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All the World's a Stage
Written by Rebecca Piatt Davidson
Illustrated by Anita Lobel
Greenwillow Books


Told in the style of
The House That Jack Built, this is an inspired book for acquainting children with the world of William Shakespeare. It begins with an introduction to young William and his muse. A gathering then builds as we meet characters from Hamlet, The Tempest, A Midsummer Night's Dream and six other plays. Lush, rich paintings highlight brilliant costumes and scenery. The characters we've met and those we are being introduced to stand with William and his muse on the left page. On the right page, a composite scene from each play is depicted along with the title and a quote from the work. At the end of the book, you will find a brief biography of Shakespeare as well as a note about the illustrations. Additionally, the composite scene from each play appears again with a concise synopsis and a numbered guide to the characters.


Potluck of Fun:
For other books that introduce young readers to Shakespeare in compelling and unique ways, pick up
William Shakespeare & the Globe (HarperTrophy) by Aliki and any of the books in Lois Burdett's Shakespeare Can Be Fun series (Firefly Books Ltd.).


If your child expresses an interest one or more of the plays introduced in All the World's a Stage, try reading the original works together. You might want to use books from the Shakespeare Made Easy series or the Simply Shakespeare series, published by Barron's Educational Series. In these books, the full original texts of the plays appear side-by-side with modern English “translations.” These books also include discussion questions, quizzes and other study activities.


At , click on Discover Shakespeare. Then select Shakespeare for Kids for a variety of activities related to Shakespeare, including puzzles, wordplay, challenges and games.

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America, My New Home
Poems by Monica Gunning
Illustrated by Ken Condon
Wordsong/Boyds Mills Press

A little girl finds herself in a new country far from her Jamaican home. As she struggles with a range of emotions - from excitement to fear - she finds a way to let out her feelings: She writes poetry. Settling into life in America, she encounters such wonders as skyscrapers and city lights, the nation's capital, a symphony concert, a library and the changing seasons. By the time winter and her first snow arrive, she has come to accept America as her new home,
“... a land where hope glows, a beacon / guiding ocean-deep dreamers / from storm surfs to shore.”

Although especially wonderful for aspiring poets and recent immigrants, this is an important book for all children. It provides a fresh perspective on the U.S. and on many things we might take for granted. It also reveals how difficult it can be to find one's place in a new setting, and hopefully encourages compassion and understanding.

Potluck of Fun:
Other powerful books that tackle the issue of newly-immigrated families from a child's perspective include,
A House of Tailors (Wendy Lamb Books) by Patricia Reilly Giff and A Picnic in October (Voyager Books) by Eve Bunting. Consider reading these books with your children and discussing the themes explored in the texts. Encourage your children to try to imagine what such experiences are like.

In the Online Activities section of, you can find exciting writing workshops. Under Writing in the Language Arts areas for grades 3-5 and grades 6-8, select the Poetry link under Writing with Writers to explore poetry writing with Karla Kuskin. You and your children can also use the Poetry Idea Engine to “get your poetry juices flowing” and try your hand at creating a Haiku, Limerick, Cinquain or Free Verse.

For some terrific articles related to poetry, check out the Academy of American Poets Web site ( Under For Educators, select Essays on Teaching. Although obviously developed for teachers, these articles contain tips and techniques parents can use, too. Explore the articles that interest you or that relate to your children’s interests, such as Serious Play: Reading Poetry with Children.

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William Shakespeare's Twelfth Night
Retold by Bruce Coville
Illustrated by Tim Raglin
Dial Books

Young Viola survives a shipwreck to find herself alone in a strange land. In need of work, she disguises herself as a man named Cesario and joins the court of Duke Orsino. Orsino loves the maiden Olivia, but Olivia does not return his favor. Viola falls in love with Orsino, but is repeatedly sent as a messenger of his love for Olivia. Thinking her a man, Olivia falls for “Cesario.” To further confuse the situation, Olivia's twin Sebastian surfaces after being thought killed in the wreck. Olivia mistakes Sebastian for “Cesario,” and the two are married. What will happen when it is revealed that Sebastian is not “Cesario,” that Viola loves Orsino and that Viola is actually a woman?

In his retelling, Bruce Coville stays true to the spirit, plot and subplots of the original play. He interweaves his own elegant prose with Shakespeare's words to convey the hilarity of this love triangle (or rectangle or pentagon). Tim Raglin's pen-and-ink illustrations are meticulous and appropriately humorous. This delightful adaptation is sure to captivate young readers as they venture into the world of Shakespeare. As Coville says, “this is not meant as a replacement for the original, but as an appetizer for the greater feast still to come.”

Potluck of Fun:
If your child enjoys
Twelfth Night, you might want to check out other Bruce Coville adaptations of Shakespeare plays: Romeo and Juliet, Hamlet, Macbeth and A Midsummer Night's Dream (Dial).

For a wonderfully interactive and engaging exploration of the changes in Shakespeare’s works during the printing process and the choices made by different actors, visit and click on Cable Resources for Learning. Under High-Speed Learning, click Shakespeare: Subject to Change. You and your children can explore this introductory page and then link to Experience Shakespeare.

At, your children can delve into the world of Shakespeare by reading online texts of his plays and poems, essays and analysis, as well as following links to recommended books and videos and a glossary of terms.


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More Ready-to-Tell Tales from Around the World
Edited by David Holt and Bill Mooney
August House

This anthology features 45 multicultural stories in “ready-to-tell” formats that have been adapted and selected by professional storytellers. The tales are drawn from African, Asian, European, North American and South American cultures and are organized into thematic categories like Comic Tales, Served With a Twist and Wheel of Fortune. The origin of each tale and the recommended audience age are noted along with a brief introduction by the contributing storyteller. Explicit tips for telling the tales are also included. Although the stories can be told exactly as they are presented, the editors encourage you to tell the tales in your own words infused with your individual personality. At the close of the book is an index of the tales by cultural origin as well as an index by recommended audience age.

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More Story S-T-R-E-T-C-H-E-R-S:
More Activities to Expand Children's Favorite Books

Written by Shirley C. Raines and Robert J. Canady
Gryphon House

In this ingenious and inspiring book you will find storyline descriptions and suggestions for presentations of 90 children's books (both classics and new favorites) along with suggested extension activities for each book. While written primarily for parents and teachers of children in second grade or below, the activities are appropriate and adaptable for older children as well. The books and creative activities are organized into 18 theme groups such as Families; Colors and Poems, Chants, Rhythms and Rhymes. Within each theme, four or five related books are recommended. For each book, there is a summary, a circle time presentation for classrooms (can be applied to reading aloud at home) and “stretchers” that involve activities across various curricula, ranging from art to cooking to math and more. A closing index lists all authors and illustrators, titles, activities and terms referenced. By using the ideas in this book, you will enhance reading with your children “with active hands-on learning which connects 'child and story and curriculum'” in ways that are meaningful and vital to their development.

There are four other books in the Story S-T-R-E-T-C-H-E-R-S series, all published by Gryphon House and each featuring different children's books. One volume focuses on infants and toddlers, while two focus on the primary grades.

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The Storyteller's Start-Up Book:
Finding, Learning, Performing and Using Folktales

Written by Margaret Read MacDonald
August House

Margaret Read MacDonald is a children's librarian who tells stories to thousands of children each year. She has also done storytelling workshops throughout the U.S. and in Europe and New Zealand. Her book combines tips, techniques and resources that promote enhanced storytelling experiences. She outlines nine steps - from selection to evaluation - for learning a story in just one hour. A chapter on performance tips details how to set the stage; engage the audience; use pacing, body movement and gestures and learn to relax. Playing with stories through audience participation, use of music and expansion with follow-up activities is also explained. Each chapter ends with a bibliography of other resources on the topic. Margaret Read MacDonald also provides resources for finding stories and accounts for the value of storytelling. The book closes with 12 tried and tested stories, each followed by information about the story's origin and evolution, and some with specific tips for telling.


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Peter H. Reynolds has written and illustrated the following children's books:

The Dot
Candlewick Press
recipient of the Irma S. and James H. Black Honor for Excellence
in Children's Literature

Candlewick Press






The North Star
FableVision Press

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Elizabeth Hetzler suggests cooking with children and recommends the following cookbooks:

The New Enchanted Broccoli Forest
Written by Mollie Katzen
Ten Speed Press







Pretend Soup and Other Real Recipes:
A Cookbook for Preschoolers & Up

Written by Mollie Katzen and Ann Henderson
Tricycle Press

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Bonnie Greenberg recommends books with storytelling resources and exercises like:

Bringing the Story Home:
The Complete Guide to Storytelling for Parents

Written by Lisa Lipkin
W. W. Norton & Co.


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

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