What We're Reading, June 2020: RHYME, RHYME, RHYME!
Well, we’re almost half-way through 2020—woo-hoo! Here’s hoping that all of the struggle and heartache the year has brought thus far will lead to growth, change, and a little bit more love for one another.
I know one thing we’re doing a lot of in 2020 is reading! Because I’m in a period of rhyme obsession in my own writing (why can’t I stop rhyming?? Aahhhh!), I thought it’d be fun to share three rhyming books that we’re enjoying lately:
What’s more fun than a rhyming book??
As you might guess from the “punny” title, READING BEAUTY is what’s known as a “fractured fairy-tale”—basically, a classic fairy tale is taken and spun on its head to create a whole new story while retaining the classic fairy tale elements. READING BEAUTY masterfully weaves all of the classic Sleeping Beauty elements—a new baby princess, a fairy curse, over-protective parents, a “prince” (you’ll get the quotes if you read the book!), a thorny hedge, a final standoff, and a true-love’s kiss—all while telling a story of empowerment.
The story centers on princess Lex, saddled with a fairy’s curse: when she’s 15, she’ll get a paper cut and go into a death-like sleep, only to be woken by true-love’s kiss. To keep the curse at bay, Lex’s parents hide all of the books in the kingdom—a disaster for book-loving Lex! Lex determines to break the curse, and uses her books to do so. She even manages to spread the love of reading along the way. And did I mention that all of this is in RHYME??
The illustrations are delightfully colorful and just abstract enough to transport the reader into this different-kind-of fairy-tale world. As a mom trying to raise boys who value people of all colors and cultures and who are advocates for equity, I also love the fact that Lex and her family are Black, and that the illustrations integrate wonderful cultural elements. This is such a fun read!
Taking a trip across the United States? Why not bring your monster? In TRAVEL GUIDE FOR MONSTERS, the reader is given advice on how visit the sights of the U.S. with their monster, again in rollicking rhyme. My personal favorite? “You’re likely to get thirsty when you hike up in the mountains. Make sure to warn your monster that those geysers are not fountains.” So clever!
Each “tip” takes the reader to a different U.S. landmark, starting in San Francisco, hitting sights like the Grand Canyon, Yellowstone, and Mount Rushmore, dipping down to Florida’s Everglades, saying hello to Madame president in D.C., and finishing off with a little surfing on Niagara Falls.
So, not only do the kiddos giggle at the silly rhyming tips and the hysterical monster illustrations, but they get a nice little tour of the country! Mine loved tracing the map in the back that tracks the route the monsters traveled, and we all laughed out loud at the final spread of monster souvenirs (I won’t ruin it for you—go read the book!). Monsters, silliness, and a coast-to-coast vacation? YES, PLEASE!
So you need to build a treehouse? Don’t make Moose’s mistake! In WHAT ABOUT MOOSE, Moose and his animal friends set out to build a treehouse, but instead of helping, Moose decides to be the foreman—barking orders, never listening, and always telling everyone how they need to work better and faster. His friends’ refrain? But what about YOU, Moose? Moose insists he’s helping, until his lack of foresight and constant blow-harding results in him being stuck in the treehouse—how will he get out?
Fortunately for Moose, his friends decide to help him, even if they do have a sense of smug justice (who wouldn’t??). Through the cleverness of his friends, Moose finally does get free, and lucky for everyone, he seems to have learned his lesson—sometimes, you need to follow. Thank goodness for forgiving friends and opportunities for growth!
Once again, this is a charming read-aloud with spot-on rhyme, and the whimsical animal illustrations just make the reader want to jump into the picture book world. The physicality of the story also helps it connect with younger readers, who may not get the lesson (even my 2-year-old asks for this again and again because he loves how moose gets stuck!). My 5-year-old got it though—his commentary as we were reading the first time? “Moose needs to help!” Now if I can only get Mr. 5 to help clean up his toys… HA!
So what are YOUR favorite rhyming books? As I work on my rhyme, I’m always looking for masterful examples to learn from—please share in the comments!