In this 3rd installment about Children's Books in the Music Room, I'm sharing books that I love by John Lithgow. He has written some great books with original music. If you want music with interesting and challenging vocabulary then these books are just splendid. You can also check out Book List 1 , Book List 2
My favorite is "The Carnival of the Animals". The CD has John Lithgow reading his book and it has recordings of each of the animals in the famous piece by Camille Saint-Saenes. The way the CD is set up, each page is it's own track and the individual animal music is a separate track, so that if you were to listen straight through you'd hear narration, music, narration, music.
Two different ways:
Because of the way that this book is set up, it lends itself well to breaking it apart and doing a page or two at a time over several weeks. I always break this book up for my younger students. I usually make a big "todo" about waiting until next time to get to hear the next part. The minute my students show up they remind me where they left off. They are very excited to see what happens to Oliver and they want to learn the "dance" that I put with the individual animals pieces. *It's very important to do quite a bit of pre-reading activities with this book because the language is so complex. I spend quite some time having the students discuss the pictures on the first couple of pages.... they really enjoy this book but without taking the time to really scaffold the language for them, it's a little beyond what my students can understand without support..... If I can, I try to wait until after my younger students have gone on a field trip......Once they've gone on a field trip then they can understand the premise of this particular retelling of Carnival of the Animals.
Sometimes with my older students I find myself with a "dangling" class, You know those times where you need to play catch up with other classes and you don't want to start something new and involved. This is a perfect book for just such a day..... I have them create a 16 box grid using a regular 8.5x11 piece of paper..... (fold the paper in half 4 times)..... . Then, we listen to the book and as each animal piece is listened to we draw a quick sketch of that animal in an open square. Since some of the pieces are considerably longer than others, I let them know before hand that they can finish any unfinished animal drawings during the longer songs. I haven't done this activity with my older students this yet this year, but last year their "listening logs" turned out nice enough to display..... I wish I had taken pictures.....
The personification of these animals and the descriptive and poetic writing is just beautiful. This book sparks a huge amount of vocabulary conversation. I could write more, but I'd rather share this youtube video so that you can get a taste of what it's like to have John Lithgow read to your class. In this video he shares almost all of the pages.
Remarkable Farkle McBride is a fantastic book all by itself, and I joyfully read it to my students for YEARS and had to replace my copy before I realized that there was a CD that had an orchestrated version of the book! It's nice to have both.
Marsupial Sue is a kangaroo that is not very happy being herself. She travels around and meets lots of other animals who also live in Australia. Along the way, she figures out that she should stop trying to be like other animals and simply be the best kangaroo she can be! It's a nice little book, but really too difficult for the students to sing, but it's a great musical way to help younger students learn about being satisfied being themselves. This book has it's own CD, but the song can also be found on the "Farkle and Friends" CD
Marsupial Sue and the Runaway Pancake is the real gem! All the animals that we met in the original Marsupial Sue book work together to put on a play about a run-away pancake. I like to read this book to kindergarten before I they become an audience at one of our school performances for the first time. This has a great sing-able refrain and my absolute favorite part is that all of the Australian animals, the kangaroo, the Tasmanian devil, the Melburne Sheep, the platypus and others dress up in costumes to play a cow, wolf, bear and fox. My favorite is the koala bear that dresses up like a dog. The CD that is included with the hardcover book is a live recording of John Lithgow reading the book to an audience of children. It is delightful and my students ask for this book often. It's also a great opportunity to compare two variations of the same story.... this book goes well with any gingerbread man books.
These are certainly musical books and can be used in many different ways in the music classroom, but I think their real value lies in their imagination and the universality of their subject matter. "I'm a Manatee" is primarily about a little boy who has dreams and "I've got two dogs" is a song about having dogs. I think that they would make really wonderful writing prompts. John Lithgow again employs beautiful poetic language and brilliant imagery that makes these books wonderful to read with children. Both books have CDs but the recordings can also be found of the "Farkle and Friends" Cd.
Download List 3 Here: Musical books by John Lithgow