Nothing delights my four year old more than discovering a new "singing book." With these unique picture books, siting together and reading is elevated by song. Lyrics come to life through illustration; story comes alive through song.
Ubiquitous Songs and their Books
Classics have been made into finger puppet books like The Itsy Bitsy Spider and Old MacDonald Had a Farm. We return again and again to songs and books by Raffi (especially "Down by the Bay") and Sandra Boynton ("The Belly Button Book"). The classics have a place in our world but I often find myself rolling my eyes when they are requested.
More than Music, Extraordinary Sing-Along Books
Fortunately, there is a small handful of sing-along books that I find extraordinary. The melodies are simple and easy enough for me to sing my way through. But each book has something special that makes it stand out. The revised message by Sylvia Long in "Hush Little Baby" emphasizes mindfulness and finding comfort in everyday things instead of the classic message that "Papa will buy"cooperation and comfort. The artwork in "Ain't Gonna Paint" is joyful and colorful and intriguing. And Robert Sabuta's ornate pop-up version of "The 12 Days of Christmas" celebrate the song in a wildly imaginative and refreshing way.
These are Forever Books
I want to keep them on my shelf forever and ever.
Hush Little Baby by Sylvia Long is my go-to gift for new parents. The melody is one most of us remember from our own childhoods. However, the lyrics are different. Instead of encouraging children to seek comfort in newly purchased possession ("Papa's gonna buy you a diamond ring."), Ms. Long demonstrates how to appreciate the mundane ("If that hummingbird should fly, Mama's going to show you the evening sky.") Between this refreshing new perspective on finding peace and the beautiful images, this book stands out among other sing-along books.
I Ain't Gonna Paint No More by Karen Beaumont illustrated by David Catrow tells the story of a young child who cannot help but paint. Set to the melody "Ain't Gonna Rain No More" the boy paints himself from head to toe. Catrow's illustrations show vibrant paint-dripping mischief and joy of Aelita Andre and aspiring painters everywhere.
"Puff, the Magic Dragon" was first a song by Peter Yarrow and Lenny Lipton released in 1963 and re-recorded for release on "Peter, Paul, and Mommy" 1969. In 2007 illustrator by Eric Puybaret painted a story that evokes joy of adventure and tear-jerking sorrow of a friendship lost. (Indeed, my four year old daughter weeped when I sang/read the book to her.) Like the other books on this short list, the visual art rivals the quality of the song it depicts.
"The 12 Days of Christmas" is seasonal but when did that ever stop a young child from wanting to think about and sing about the beloved holiday? Robert Sabuta's pop-up book is a mechanical masterpiece. Enough said.
Again?! Of Course
Like many children, my daughter has gone through phases of requesting each of these four books on a daily (and sometimes more-than-once-daily) basis. Unlike some of her other requests, I find myself saying, "This one again!? Of course. Let's sing together."