Top Ten Tuesday -Top Ten ALL TIME Favorite Singable Picture Books

Top Ten Tuesday is an original feature/weekly meme created by the book lovers over at The Broke and the Bookish.

This week’s theme is Top Ten ALL TIME Favourite Books of X Genre, and seeing as I’m a children’s librarian I’m going to share a few of my favourite singable picture books! These books are always on my story time shelf, and they’re some of my go-to books for pretty much any story time.

Singing has been shown to support the development of early literacy skills in young children:

Singing breaks up words into syllables, slowing down the sounds that words make and allowing your child to understand how to pronounce words they might not even know the meaning of. For instance, “Lon-don bridge is fall-ing down, fall-ing down, fall-ing down,” splits up the words into smaller, slower pieces, allowing your child to really understand how to mimic those sounds. Before children can learn to read, they need to be able to identify the different sounds that words make, and singing is a great way to introduce this, even if you’re off-key! 🙂 Herrick District Library

My story times are very high energy – I love getting kids moving, interacting, participating and having fun in my programs, and singable picture books are great way to get kids engaged in a story. They’re also a lot of fun!

So, in no particular order,


 I Love My White Shoes


You cannot go wrong with this jazzy story about a positive cat who doesn’t seem to pay much attention to where he’s going… I absolutely love jamming with Pete as he introduces children to basic colours.

The Seals on the Bus by Lenny Hort


Kids loving singing The Wheels on the Bus (over and over and over…) and kids love making animal noises. Put them both together and you’ve got a fun new take on a beloved children’s song.

I Ain’t Gonna Paint No More


I love this book SO MUCH. The tune is ridiculously catchy, the protagonist is a cheeky little performance artist, and there’s a funny little line that will have adults in the audience cracking up. I LOVE singing this one with a bit of a country drawl for added effect (and extra ridiculousness).

Old Mikamba Had a Farm


I love being able to shake up a classic and  give it a fresh spin, and this African retelling of Old MacDonald Had a Farm does just that!  Old Mikamba has quite the exciting farm, filled with new and wonderful animals to explore and imitate.

Five Green and Speckled Frogs


Besides having a really fun tune, Five Green and Speckled Frogs can be shared as a finger play, a felt story and a picture book – learn it once, share it in multiple ways to engage different learners in different ways.

There was a Tree


Rachel Isadora is back with another beautiful take on a classic children’s song. This time in the prettiest little tree that you ever did see is actually beautiful acacia tree growing in a beautiful African setting.

If You’re Happy and You Know It


Jane Cabrera is a master of the illustrated nursery rhyme, and pretty much any of her books is guaranteed story time gold, but this animal-themed take on If You’re Happy and You Know It is one of my favourites. Kids can roar like a lion, squeak like a little mouse, and have lots of fun expressing their happiness in all sorts of active ways.

If You’re a Monster and You Know It

If You're a Monster and You Know It...

This spin on the traditional children’s song is so much fun! Kids roar, stomp, wiggle and more. If you’ve got a particularly wiggly group of kidlits, this delightfully silly story is the perfect way to harness that energy in a fun and interactuve way.Rebecca Emberley is the daughter of Ed Emberley, the creator of the beloved children’s classic, Go Away Big Green Monster.

Pete the Cat and His Four Groovy Buttons


Like I Love My White ShoesFour Groovy Buttons is perfect for people who don’t necessarily feel comfortable singing in front of others, including nervous or reluctant caregivers. Most of the text can simply be read aloud, with only the insanely catchy refrain sung or chanted. It’s a great gateway book that can ease storytellers into singing with their audiences, as well as a fun introduction to the concept of subtraction.

Sing, sing, sing!


Family Child Care Story Time – June 10, 2015

Today I filled in for a Family Child Care Story Time at our central branch. This weekly story time is for home childcare providers with small groups of children. The children were mostly toddlers and preschoolers, not too dissimilar from my usual family story time crowd.

Welcome Song: Hello, Friends

Book 1: Bark, George!

bark george

Hand Rhymes

  • I wake up my hands
  • Roly poly

Book 2: The Seals on the Bus


Action Songs

  • Zoom zoom
  • London Bridge is Falling Down
  • Head and shoulders
  • If you’re happy and you know it

Book 3: Little Owl Lost


Cool-down songs:

  • Grr-grr went the little brown bear one day (with puppet)

Goodbye Song: Goodbye, Friends!

I love testing things out on new audiences. 😉 I don’t typically fit three picture books into my story times, but this crowd seemed primed to sit and listen, so I decided to give it a whirl. It worked surprisingly well – I chose very silly stories that I could play up with facial expressions and different voices, and as usual I stuck to my favourite standbys for this one-off story time.

I also used “If you’re happy and you know it” as my transition song, finishing the song with:

If you’re happy and you know it sit back down / If you’re happy and you know it sit back down / If you’re happy and you know it and you really want to show it / If you’re happy and you know it sit back down”

I wanted to finish with a puppet, but I didn’t really like any of the frog puppets I could find, so I decided to just sing “grr grr went the little black bear” with an adorable black bear puppet.One of the childcare minders had never heard that version before, and she liked it so much she came up to me afterwards for the words. I love being able to share new versions of old favourites with caregivers – like I always say, you don’t have to reinvent the wheel – if you already know a few tunes, work with what you have!

Family Story Time – April 24, 2015

I had planned a very rain-themed story time for today in the spirit of the weather, complete with all sorts of songs and stories about rain. Wouldn’t you know, about thirty minutes before story time started the heavens cleared and the sun shone through – so it was back to the drawing board! Here’s what we did:

Welcome Song: Hello, Friends

Book 1: Dear Zoo / Rod Campbell

dear zoo

Hand Rhymes

  • I wake up my hands
  • Wiggle your fingers
  • Open-shut them
  • Roly poly

Book 2: The Seals on the Bus / Lenny Hort


Action Songs

  • Bend and stretch
  • Zoom zoom
  • The hokey pokey
  • Toast in the toaster
  • The elevator song

Cool-down songs:

  • Mm-ahh went the little green frog (with puppet)

Goodbye Song: Goodbye, Friends!

Funnily enough, the hokey pokey was not an audience favourite this time around. The kids enjoyed shaking and turning around, but weren’t all that excited by the song, so I kept it brief – arms, legs, whole self.

What they really, really seem to love is jumping. Jumping, jumping, anything with jumping. So, toast in the toaster was received with much enthusiasm after the lackluster response to the hokey pokey!

Mm-ahh is a perennial favourite because I make sure that all the children practice really sticking their tongues out for an authentic froggy experience, which they just find absolutely hilarious. I also happen to have a freakishly long tongue (think Gene Simmons….), which typically leads to shrieks of laughter. I’m not above an easy sight gag 😉

Family Story Time – December 5, 2014

After missing last week because of a workshop, I was back at story time today, and ready to go. Thanks to my branch manager acting as a bouncer, we were able to keep our group at about 85 people today, but we had to turn 15 or so people away! Thankfully, we’re looking at adding additional story times in the new year, so we’ve made a little survey asking people what days and times work best for them. We have to keep in mind our opening hours and staffing levels, but hopefully we can find a new time that works for everyone, so we don’t have to turn little ones away!

Welcome Song: Hello, Friends

Book 1: What’s Your Sound, Hound the Hound?


Hand Rhymes

  • I wake up my hands
  • When cows wake up in the morning
  • Wiggle your fingers
  • Open-shut them
  • Roly poly

Book 2: The Seals on the Bus / Lenny Holt


Action Songs

  • Bend and stretch
  • Zoom zoom
  • Here we go a driving
  • Orca whale
  • The elevator song

Goodbye Song: Goodbye, Friends!

Sing it again!

I love to sing. In the shower, on the bus (quietly), while shopping (again, hopefully quietly), I am one of those people who always seems to be humming a merry little tune. So it’s no surprise that I love picture books that can be sung! Singable picture books are a secret weapon that I like to pull out towards the end of a story time, when the children are getting wiggly and just want to keep singing Zoom Zoom Zoom over and over again.

I also like to use singable picture books to show caregivers how much use they can get out of a picture book – read it, chant it, sing it, turn it into a felt story, act it out with stuffed toys – get as much bang for your buck out of that story as you can! Plus, kids thrive on repetition, and odds are the caregiver will be sick of the story long before their child is….

Here are just a few of the singable picture books I’ve used in my family story times.


I Ain’t Gonna Paint No More – Karen Beaumont

Colour, colour and more colour! A mischievous little boy is determined to use his body as a canvas for his riotously colourful abstract works. Sing this one to the tune of the boy scout campfire classic, “It Ain’t Gonna Rain No More”.


The Seals on The Bus – Lenny Hort

One of many versions of this children’s classic, Hort’s version is one of my favourites because of its wonderful illustrations and hilarious cast of noisy characters – a perfect book for encouraging audience participation.


Old Mikamba Had a Farm – Rachel Isadora

Another spin on a familiar classic, Rachel Isadora’s beautiful collage illustrations introduce children to a host of African animals, from the familiar lion to the adorable little dassie. Expand your story time horizons in a way that is still very accessible.


Pete the Cat I Love My White Shoes – Eric Litwin

What more is there to say? This is a great introduction to singable picture books, as it’s really only the jazzy refrain that gets sung. While many children already know this book, most are more than happy to sing it again….and again….and again…