Like most teachers, I am always on the lookout for good picture books! And, last weekend, my wife and I stopped at a library book sale!
It was the kind where you get a whole bag of books for $3. Yes!
Of course, I always run straight to the children's book section. This kind of sale offers an amazing, inexpensive way to buy books. You just need a moment to look around. Here are some of the things I look for when I'm fishing for those nuggets of gold...
Folktales often contain a wonderful repeated structure. If there is a phrase that comes up repeatedly, that phrase can easily be a song or instrumental piece that students perform during the story. "Retold by" before the author's name is a good clue that you are looking at a folktale. (Click to tweet that!) A good example is The Squeaky Door, retold by Margaret Read MacDonald and Mary Newell DePalma.
2. Rhyming Books
Often books that rhyme can be spoken in rhythm, or sung. They may even have a nice refrain for students to latch onto. A good example is The Magic Hat by Mem Fox and Tricia Tusa. I sing the whole book with a jazzy swing in dorian mode.
3. Quote in the Title
This one isn't always a sure thing, but often a quoted phrase means that the phrase comes up several times throughout the book. This gives us the opportunity to bring a repeated musical element into the book.
For example, when I use the book Oh, Tucker by Steven Kroll, I sing much of the story in a dramatic recitative style. When the phrase "Oh, Tucker" comes up, I sing it using the dominant and tonic and encourage students to do so also.
4. Board Books
Board books are the bullet-proof vest of the literature world. It is a huge bonus to find a useful story in board book form because it will never wear out, and also because it is likely to contain a bite-sized amount of text, which is good for reading aloud! A good example is We're Going on a Bear Hunt by Helen Oxenbury and Michael Rosen.
One thing that automatically disqualifies a book for me is too much text. If the first page of the story is covered with words from top to bottom, I immediately move on to a more succinct candidate.
I'm looking for books with musical potential, and too much text just doesn't work for music class.