Monthly Archives: March 2014

Songs for Little Pickers

Watosn, Doc. Songs for Little Pickers. Alacazam!. 2000.

On Songs for Little Pickers, Doc Watson performs traditional folk songs that will appeal not only to children but to anyone else who finds themselves listening along with them. Watson’s legendary guitar playing and mellow voice combine to make a truly enjoyable listening experience. None of the grating elements such as absurd lyrics, very high-pitched voices, or annoying tunes that so often are features of children’s albums are present here.

There are some silly children’s favorites such as “And the Green Grass Grew All Around,” but also popular traditional folk songs such as “Shady Grove” that form crucial elements of the American musical tradition. As so many of these, such as “Froggy Went A Courtin” lend themselves so well to a child audience that it seems it was only a matter of time before the master of the genre recorded an album for children.

Listening to Doc Watson perform Songs for Little Pickers, children are not only entertained, but are also building a strong basis for their musical education.


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Animals Born Alive and Well

Heller, Ruth. Animals Born Alive and Well. Grosset & Dunlap, New York: 1982.

ISBN: 0-448-01822-5

Age range: 2-6

The colorful illustrations found in Animals Born Alive and Well spill across the two-page spreads in beautiful detail. Both charming and realistic, the animals pictured range from the easily recognizable (cat, giraffe) to the exotic (pangolin, okapi) and are labeled for easy identification. Readers will also learn that mammals aren’t limited to walking on the ground. They may fly (bat) swim (dolphin) or burrow (mole). The rhymed text makes the words roll off the tongue, and the illustrations often help to show the meaning of more difficult words. For example, one page reads, “So are CAMELS, and like all others, they are nourished by their mothers.” (p.13) Directly below the text is a picture of a baby camel nursing – being nourished by its mother. Heller even teaches the reader an especially big, scientific word at the end of the book: viviparous. She helpfully breaks it down into syllables, making it easier for the young reader (and the reading or assisting parent!) to sound out.

Animals Born Alive and Well fills the needs both of an entertaining book and an educational book. Children will learn facts about mammals and names of different types of mammals, but they will also enjoy listening to the rhyming and  pointing out different animals from the illustrations. The vast number of animals pictured alone will provide incentive for many repeated readings.


Read Alikes:

From Seed to Plant by Gail Gibbons

It Started as an Egg by Kimberlee Graves

Chickens Aren’t the Only Ones by Ruth Heller

About Mammals: A Guide for Children by Cathryn Sill


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Tangled. Greno, Nathan and Byron Howard. Disney. 2010.

Disney returns to the production of “princess movies” with Tangled, a 3D-animated movie about Rapunzel.  the princess Rapunzel was kidnapped as an infant by the witch Gothel so that she could use the magic in the baby’s hair to eternally restore her youth. As Rapunzel grows up, she wishes to leave the tower where she is imprisoned in order to see the world and the source of the yearly display of floating lanterns. Though Gothel will not allow her to leave, Rapunzel finds her chance when the thief Flynn Rider finds his way into her tower. She convinces him to help her leave the tower and seek the source of the lights. In true Disney fashion, Rapunzel and Flynn experience lighthearted adventures, grave perils, and catchy song numbers over the course of their quest.

Although Tangled utilizes a 3D style of animation, in many ways it is a return to the older style of Disney “princess movies” and musicals that they produced for a long time. There is a beautiful princess, a handsome prince, a formidable villain, animal companions, and original songs. Flynn Rider takes a more central part in Tangled than was the case in many Disney films; his involvement is more along the lines of John Smith from Pocahontas than of Prince Charming in Cinderella. This may have been an attempt to attract more boys, who may not always be as interested in the princesses who take the lead roles in most Disney movies. Whatever the motives, Flynn is a likable and sympathetic character – even if he is a thief. Rapunzel is a pluckier sort of heroine than some, either. Though she spends the greater part of her life in captivity, she takes advantage of her opportunities to realize her dreams, and she is rewarded for it, though not without significant hardship.

Both girls and boys (and even parents and older siblings!) are sure to enjoy this fun new take on a traditional fairy tale.

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Around the World by Matt Phelan

Phelan, Matt. Around the World. Candlewick Press, Somerville, Massachusetts, 2011.

ISBN: 0763636193

Age Range: 9-12

Matt Phelan’s graphic novel Around the World tells the stories of three intrepid travelers who took up the challenge set forth by Jules Verne when his novel Around the World in Eighty Days captured the imaginations of readers everywhere.

Thomas Stevens was the first of the three to make the journey all the way around the world, learning to ride the newfangled bicycle and decided to change his fate from the dark one of a coal miner to the golden glow of celebrity. Next, “girl reporter” Nellie Bly sought to complete the eighty-day challenge, racing around the world and writing stories about her travels for her newspaper. Joshua Slocum was a retired sea captain who decided to come back to complete the first solo around-the-world ocean voyage.

Phelan captures the spirit of each character through their words and appearances, as well as by using a different dominant color for each story (sort of like filters on Instagram) which relay the undertones of each story. For example, Nellie Bly’s story is illustrated using warm colors that indicate the heat of her feisty personality. The soft watercolors used in the images add to the vintage feel and the air of dreaminess that surrounds these people attempting the around-the-world voyage.

This book offers a glimpse into a time during which the around-the-world fad was raging at full force, and gives readers access to history in a different format that may prove more accessible to many readers than a standard history text.

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