Poetry Friday is a tradition at many of the children's book blogs. People review poetry books for kids, share original works, and post short, copyright-friendly excerpts of other authors' poems. It's a lot of fun; I call Poetry Friday a literary happy hour.
So, today is a Friday, and a perfect time to mention The Frogs and Toads All Sang, a picture-book collection of ten poems by Arnold Lobel (HarperCollins, 2009). Yes, the very same Arnold Lobel of the Frog and Toad beginning readers. The characters in the new book, very much their own amphibians (and different from the beloved Frog and Toad Are Friends guys), dance, bake, eat, and, in general, celebrate life. One even leaps to the moon.
Recently a couple of first-grade buddies and I were reading the book aloud. Suddenly, one little girl stopped and asked if she could sing the one of the poems. I said, "Sure." In the sweetest high-pitched voice, she began, "A bright green frog/With slippery skin/Played waltzes/On a violin." I clapped at the end. Good books inspire kids time after time.
Arnold Lobel died more than twenty years ago, but had written and drawn what became The Frogs and Toads All Sang as a single-edition gift for a friend. The work eventually found its way to Lobel's daughter, Adrianne, a Broadway set designer. She added watercolor to her father's original sketches and used them, along with the poems, to create a new book.
Publishers Weekly said that the poems and illustrations are the "progenitors" of the Frog and Toad series, but I didn't go into the publishing history with the first graders. We just enjoyed the book together. I bet you and yours will, too.
Feel free to sing.
If you would like to read more of the entries for today's Poetry Friday, Diane May is gathering all the links together at her blog, Random Noodling.
When my son was a baby, he loved a book called Alphabet Band. An older friend had handed it down as a present. Outfitted with a side panel of buttons to push, the book talked. I can still remember the very electronic voice starting off, "Alligator number one/Squeezes the accordion." We took it with us wherever we went.
When the kiddo grew into a toddler, he decided to figure out how Alphabet Band worked. I'm not sure what he discovered, but the book did not survive the thorough investigation—and is no longer in print, either.
These days when I'm looking for gifts for babies, one favorite resource is the annual "Best Books for Babies" list at Beginning With Books, an early-literacy center in Pittsburgh. The 2009 lineup (for books published in 2008) can be found online here.
Now ten, the Alphabet Band enthusiast is happily reading (and not tearing apart) chapter books, but if he were a toddler or preschooler, I'd use the recommendations for that age group at the blog Your Friendly Librarian. I like her roundup of 2009's best, which includes the lovely rhyming picture book All the World, written by a blogging pal, Liz Garton Scanlon, and illustrated by Marla Frazee.