Jazz Baby by Lisa Wheeler and R. Gregory Christie

Cover image of Jazz Baby by Lisa Wheeler and R. Gregory ChristieWheeler, Lisa. Jazz Baby. Illustrated by R. Gregory Christie. Orlando: Harcourt, Inc., 2007.

Plot:  “Bitty-boppin’ Baby” claps, dances, and eventually snoozes to the jazzy music-making of his family and neighbors.

Setting: Urban

Point of View: 3rd person

Theme: jazz, music, singing, dancing, family, neighbors, community

Literary Quality: With boisterous rhymes and toe-tap worthy rhythms, Lisa Wheeler’s text bounces off the page and begs to be read aloud: “Mama sings high. Daddy sings low. Snazzy-jazzy Baby says, “GO, MAN, GO!” So they TOOT-TOOT-TOOT and they  SNAP-SNAP-SNAP and the bouncin’ baby bebops with a CLAP-CLAP-CLAP!” R. Gregory Christie’s gouache illustrations bring further music to the page with their depictions of a multi-generational family passing around a happy, spunky baby. Warm colors outlined in broad-stroked lines that contrast against plentiful whitespace, these paintings carry forth the playfulness and energy of the narrative. As the story winds down and the “Drowsy-dozy Baby” drifts off to sleep to the soothing arms, smiles, and voices of his family, readers will be reluctant to return from this imaginative celebration of music and love that transports and inspires.

Audience: I would recommend this book to readers ages 1-8. A perfect read-aloud for a classroom or story time, but with family at the center of it, a great book for the home, as well.

Personal reaction: Picture books that take on music and sound are my favorites, and Jazz Baby ranks among the top of that list. It is fun to read, to actually say the words which tickle your mouth and in tempos that get your body itching to move.  This story is one of my son’s favorites, as well. At 18 months, he dances (bounces) when we read it, and claps and chimes in with an enthusiastic “OH YEAH!” at the end. In other words, he has been converted to a jazz baby, himself.


Dancing Feet! by Lindsey Craig and Marc Brown

Craig, Lindsey. Dancing Feet! Illustrated by Marc Brown. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2010.

Plot:  Guess who is dancing on lots of different feet? A whole menagerie of animals! And children, too!

Setting: Imaginary

Point of View: 1st person (determined by “We are dancing on stampity feet!” at the end)

Theme: dance, movement, animals, music, sound, rhythm, feet, imagination

Literary Quality: Energy bounds from the pages of this rhythmic story. Craig playfully explores sounds, movements, and colors in her text:

Creepity! Creepity!

Lots of purple feet!

Who is dancing

that creepity beat?

Caterpillar’s dancing on creepity feet.

Creepity! creepity!

Happy feet!

Every animal’s feet are a different color and have a different dance, but they’re all happy! The sounds each animal’s feet make are emphasized with italics on the page. Of course, these sounds evoke motions — tippity, stompityslappity, creepity, etc. — and offer a great opportunity for children to practice the movements, an opportunity cemented by the final dancers, children who imitate the animals. The patterns of related sounds and repetition of the question and answer format make for a perfect read-aloud. Marc Brown’s colorful collages keep the momentum going. His illustrations of the feet provide visual clues to which animals will be seen in full dancing on the following spreads. This is a story that will get everybody up and moving their happy feet!

Audience: Ages 1-7.

Personal reaction: We’re big fans of Dancing Feet in our household, and have been since my son was just a few months old. The bold collages and musical text have always captivated his attention. The animals and their dances are silly and fun. I love how seamlessly this story brings music, movement, colors, and animals together. 

The Witch Casts A Spell by Suzanne Williams and Barbara Olsen

Williams, Suzanne. The Witch Casts A Spell. Illustrated by Barbara Olsen. New York: Dial Books for Young Readers, 2002.

witch_casts_a_spellPlot: A witch, scarecrow, goblins, and ghosts attend a lively party along with other ghoulish guests at a mummy’s house on Halloween.

Setting: Modern-day Halloween

Point of View: 3rd person

Theme: Halloween, costumes, parties, music, witches, ghosts, mummies, scarecrows, vampires, bands, dancing, spooks, families, friends, evenings, nighttime, jack-o-lanterns, “The Farmer in the Dell,” festivities, holidays

Literary Quality: Written to the tune of, “The Farmer in the Dell,” this Halloween story will get readers singing in no time. The refrain, “Such sights are seen on Halloween,” lends itself perfectly to the song’s bouncing rhythm. Readers and listeners will be eager to participate, and the repetition of each phrase makes it easy to do so. When the guests return home, “They all change for bed,” and we discover that a little girl who crashed the party is actually a witch! A line or two of bold text on each page pairs with brightly colored mixed media illustrations–full of delightful details–to bring this festive Halloween party to life. Border illustrations help frame the white space around the text, and older readers might enjoy piecing together the collage words in the borders, too.

Audience: I would recommend this picture book for ages 1-10. It is perfect for a read-aloud (truly a sing-aloud!), or solo read, at home or in a classroom setting. It might inspire older readers to change the lyrics to other favorite songs to tell a Halloween tale.

Personal reaction: This book was so much fun that it motivated me to post up here again after quite the break! There are a lot of holiday books out there that are just kind of “blah,” they seem to be on the market for market reasons only, but this is not one of them. I read this to my fourteen-month-old son who promptly began dancing and clapping with each page. We read the book three times in a single sitting and five times total this Halloween day, and we must have sung the song another four times without the book! This is a Halloween story with a lot of heart. It brings some spook and cheer to any Halloween celebration. It is also a nice alternative to books focused on trick-or-treating. Keep it on your list for next year! It’s certainly on mine.