Miss McNally taught us “The Friendly Beasts” for our Christmas concert, and I have never forgotten it. I can still recite every verse (*cough*) 40-odd (*cough*) years later. It is still one of my all-time favorite holiday songs, probably made more special by the fact that it isn’t on every holiday album and isn’t in every book of piano music, either.
Now, I can re-live the music and the memories with The Friendly Beasts by sisters Kim Mitzo Thompson and Karen Mitzo Hilderbrand. It is a welcome addition to our holiday bookshelf!
As I started looking for other Twin Sisters Productions‘ seasonal titles on BigUniverse.com I got very excited. With titles like Jolly Old St. Nicholas and Angels We Have Heard On High we have instant books-on-tape! Cool, don’t you think?
It is no news to you that we learn with our ears first. We know the word “mama” and can say it before we recognize it on the page. If there are ways to mix the two together, well that’s just awesome. Enter: Twin Sisters Productions and holiday music.
Their catalog contains lots of songs in book form, as well as some wonderful seasonal titles that are books you share with toddlers before the “story” stage. Complementing the songs with images and text that can help kids learn to read is a “teaching moment” extraordinaire!
These are books that are wonderful to share with toddlers and preschoolers with a teacher or Mom and Dad reading. In the min-reviews below, though, I offer some ideas on how I would use them with developing readers.
We Three Kings, illustrated by Jackie Binder
I recommend for Kindergarten and First Grade
- There is lots of white space, with just 4 – 5 lines of verse / page.
- The illustrations are bright but simple (i.e., don’t distract the reader).
- Orient, yonder, wonder, and sacrifice are among the words that expand the reader’s vocabulary.
- The rhyme has great variety for introducing different word families. Examples: are, afar, star; plain, again, reign.
The Friendly Beasts, illustrated by Tara Larsen Chang
I recommend for Preschool, Kindergarten and First Grade
- The lyrics are presented in three styles of text, with different sizes and colors.
- Word rhymes for each verse stay within a word family.
- There is plenty of word repetition, including kind, Him, cow, good.
- The hardest word “Emmanuel” is last … at the point where the reader has already gained their confidence.
The First Noel, illustrated by Jackie Binder
- The lyrics offer lots of repetition perfect for a newer reader.
- The density of the pages requires a more confident / seasoned reader (text-heavy with 8-10 lines / page).
- The last page is a Bible verse and has no images.
- Lyrical words expand the readers’ vocabulary bank: intent, Israel, country.