Storytime Suggestions: Old MacDonald by Jessica Souhami
It’s an understood fact that toddlers, when placed in large groups, respond to only a few things the poor librarian schmuck sitting in front of them might care to do during a storytime. The poor librarian schmuck (or PLS) is then faced with several options. I cannot vouch for everyone, but usually this means just one thing: singing. Toddlers like it for some reason. Even if you cannot hold much in the way of a tune they are inclined to perk up their ears and coo if they detect that you are engaging in some kind of a rhythm.
So it is that I premier for you today my first Storytime Suggestion with . . . singing. Erg. It’s not that I think I have a particularly bad voice or anything. It’s just that singing for a large group of people who drool is much easier than in a room adjacent to where my husband is working on a screenplay. In my mind, singing for one is always harder than singing for many. So you will find me a chastened librarian in this week’s video. A quieter Bird.
Fortunately, this week’s book is the best of its kind. Behold the power and glory that is . . . Old MacDonald.
I noticed that in my last video I resembled nothing so much as a wet duck. I have done my utmost to alleviate that problem.
Name: Old MacDonald
Author/Illustrator: Jessica Souhami
In Print?: Not unless you live in England. You can buy plenty of used copies, though.
Best For: Toddler Storytime
The trick to this book is that it’s a surefire winner. So if you have storytimes where there’s a danger that things might get a bit wild and you need something to win back their attention, consider this your secret weapon.
Now there are plenty of Old MacDonald books out there, but this is by far my favorite. Why? Several reasons. I suspect that Ms. Souhami may have tested this book out on the wee ones, just to see how long she could prolong the song. A lot of Old MacDonald books do too many animals. The kids are willing to humor you for about four, but if you get to six or seven their attentions wane. This book has the four animals plus the unexpected alien.
But really, it’s the lift-the-flap aspect that sets this apart. When I lift each one of those flaps it gives the kids the chance to say what the animal is in an instant before I sing it. Mind you, toddlers are sort of out of it. They don’t always quite understand what I’m doing. Preschoolers are way more on the ball, but I like using this one in toddler storytime because even if they don’t participate their nannies and parents will, and that gives them a clue as to how to act. It makes for good prompting.
Best of all, this book has the unexpected gag that gets a surprise laugh out of parents. You’ll note that I just sorta open that last flap without a pause in the singing. That way they’re doubly surprised by both the content and the fact that I just plunged right into the unexpected. The kids sometimes eye the alien with that look that says, “Is that scary? Should I cry or something?” but since the subsequent lines involve me singing “Beep Beep” over and over, they’d have to be pretty thin skinned to find that anything but a little kooky. I’ve never had a kid cry over that alien, and I don’t think it’s gonna happen anytime soon.
Basically, it’s a perfect book. If you can get your mitts on a copy, it’ll bring down the house every time. I like to close out my storytimes with it sometimes (before the final I’m a Little Teapot and Heads, Shoulders, Knees and Toes, of course).
Storytime Suggestions by Readers Have Included:
- A Minneapolis librarian pointed out that the librarians of the Hennepin County Library system have filmed their fingerplays for kids birth to six. I just watched a whole slew of them. Gave me some good ideas, they did.
- Barbara and Jennifer W. recommended Margery Cuyler’s That’s Good, That’s Bad.
- Jen Librarian and Maureen M. mentioned Terrific by Jon Agee
- Maureen M. also mentioned Sean Taylor’s Boing!
My Own Previous Storytime Suggestions:
For Toddlers: The Noisy Counting Book by Susan Schade
For Preschoolers: Rhyming Dust Bunnies by Jan Thomas
For Older Kids: Fortunately by Remy Charlip
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About Betsy Bird
Betsy Bird is currently the Collection Development Manager of the Evanston Public Library system and a former Materials Specialist for New York Public Library. She has served on Newbery, written for Horn Book, and has done other lovely little things that she'd love to tell you about but that she's sure you'd find more interesting to hear of in person. Her opinions are her own and do not reflect those of EPL, SLJ, or any of the other acronyms you might be able to name. Follow her on Twitter: @fuseeight.
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