While I do plan a number of storytimes that are non-animal in nature, I have to admit that many of them do feature animals. Toddler-friendly picture books overwhelmingly feature animals doing all sorts of adorable things and getting into all kinds of mischief. The children love them and the parents want to check them out after storytime, so who I am to argue with this kind of success?
This morning’s storytime was multi-species; we read books featuring ducks and chickens. If you’re including chickens in your storytime, there’s no better way to start out your storytime than with a telling of The Little Red Hen. While there are many versions of The Little Red Hen available, my favorite for a toddler storytime is Byron Barton’s The Little Red Hen. Barton includes the familiar aspects of the tale (including “new” words such as thresh); the illustrations and text are simple, but not watered down. The only major difference I noticed is that the hen has chicks, instead of being the solitary diner that we normally hear in other versions of the story. Preschool groups would probably enjoy more detailed versions of the folktale (try versions by Paul Galdone or Margot Zemach).
A Hat for Minerva Louise was a big hit with this morning’s crowd. Minerva Louise loves to play in the snow (too bad I didn’t plan this storytime two weeks ago, when we did have snow; northern Virginia is now in the 40s and the snow has turned to slush), but she doesn’t have proper winter garb. She sets off to find a warm hat for wintry weather. The children laughed at Minerva trying on a garden hose and a bucket before finding the perfect hat (which is really a mitten, as they pointed out). Minerva Louise is in luck, for she finds two hats (which is really the other mitten, as they also pointed out). Minerva Louise hangs the hat on her bottom (which they thought hilarious). Oh, the gales of giggles this one produced! Janet Morgan Stoeke’s text is minimal (1-2 sentences on each page for the most part), but Minerva Louise’s antics will keep your audience’s attention until the very end.
After singing and performing “5 Little Ducks,” we settled down to read Come Along, Daisy by Jane Simmons. Mama Duck is always calling to Daisy, but Daisy would rather explore and play with animals she discovers, such as a frog. Unfortunately, Daisy explores too far away from mama! Suddenly, there’s a rustling sound….what can it be? The suspense builds over several pages, until we find that it’s Mama Duck rustling along the riverbank, looking for Daisy. Mother and daughter are reunited, and Daisy has learned her lesson about straying too far from mom. Expansive illustrations and large text make this an easy read for the story reader, while Daisy’s enjoyment of exploring, worry when separated from mother and relief when reunited will resonate with toddlers.
Richard Waring’s Hungry Hen features two common adversaries: a fox and a hen. Fox is hungrily watching Hen grow larger and larger every day. Fox is *really* hungry, but he tells himself that if he waits one more day, Hen will get even bigger. Hen indeed grows bigger and bigger, but Fox grows thinner and thinner. Finally, Fox cannot stand it anymore. He races down the hill and smashes into Hen’s house. Unfortunately for him, Hen has not yet satiated her appetite, and gobbles him down. The surprise turn of events will pack an interesting punch to this tale of toddler-friendly suspense.
It’s not difficult to find chicken/duck related fingerplays and songs. We had fun performing “5 Little Ducks.” Our “5 Little Ducks” was the one in which five little ducks “went out one day/Over the hills and far away/Mama Duck called quack quack quack/And four little ducks came waddling back.” We showed five fingers on “five,” traced an arc in the sky on “over the hills and far away,” made the quacking noises, and waddled at the end. I’ve heard slightly different versions for the final verse; we sang “Sad Mama duck went out one day/Over the hills and far away/Mama Duck called quack quack quack/And five little ducks came waddling back” Yaaay!
There’s also “5 little ducks that I once knew/Fat ones, skinny ones, short ones too/But the one little duck with the feather on his back/He lead the others with a quack, quack, quack,” et cetera.
The ChildFun family website also has several chicken-themed fingerplays (scroll to the very end). We did the “5 Eggs and 5 Eggs” fingerplay.
One of my colleagues made adorable felt board figures for the “Hens of Different Colors” poem found on the Lesson Exchange site. The children “helped” me complete the end of each “This little hen is _____” and “All of these hens live at the farm, out in the ______.”
Barton, Byron. The Little Red Hen. New York: HarperCollins, 1993.
Simmons, Jane. Come Along, Daisy! Boston: Little, Brown, 1998.
Stoeke, Janet Morgan. A Hat for Minerva Louise. New York: Dutton Children’s Books, 1994.
Waring, Richard. Hungry Hen. New York: HarperCollins, 2001.
Did I miss your favorite fowl-themed story?