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Scat Like That - A Musical Word Odyssey

Music and literacy go hand in hand. Rhythm, rhyme, meter, melody and wordplay are easily melded together in songs that are tons of fun, while almost secretly encouraging reading skills such as phonemic awareness, pronunciation, vocalization and listening. Throw in a little jazz or polka, flip your flapjacks and sing your way across all 50 States with ease.

Scat Like That: A Musical Word OdysseyIn "Scat Like That: A Musical Word Odyssey," the latest family album from veteran duo Cathy Fink and Marcy Marxer, wordplay becomes big fun. “Scat” is defined as “Jazz singing in which improvised, meaningless syllables are sung to a melody.” And as a verb it is defined, “To sing Scat.” This big band call-and-response encourages skills in listening, repetition and articulation as children emulate the scat sounds. Using scat and other wordplay techniques including tongue twisters, limericks, yodeling, and Pig Latin, listeners sing along while learning about vowels and consonants, homonyms and synonyms, and a host of other language skills.

Listen to the music. Sing along. Then follow up with a book. Maria Salvadore, M. Ed., M.L.S., former head of Children’s Services, Washington D.C. Public Libraries, chose these titles to build on some of the ideas presented in the music, to encourage further learning, spark additional interests but mostly to continue the fun.

So, sit back, turn on the music and open a book. A world of listening, sharing, reading, talking, learning and fun is close at hand!

1. Scat Like That

Charlie Parker Plays BebopCharlie Parker Plays Bebop
By Chris Raschka (Orchard, 1992)

Charlie Parker’s saxophone comes alive with the syncopation of words and music in this rhythmic, jazzy and irresistible book.

Ella Fitzgerald: The Tale of a Vocal Virtuosa
By Andrea Davis Pinkney    Illustrated by Brian Pinkney (Jump at the Sun/Hyperion, 2002)

The Queen of Scat is introduced here in lively language and swirling, color-filled images to create a memorable picture of the woman and the music with which she is identified.

Hip Cat
By Jonathan London   Illustrated by Woodleigh Hubbard (Chronicle, 1993)

A cool cat follows his dream to become a saxophone-playing jazz musician. Vivid illustrations take the musical text to new heights.

I See the Rhythm
By Toyomi Igus   Illustrated by Michele Wood (Children’s Book Press, 1998)

African American music from spirituals to bebop, R&B to hip hop and more are introduced in energetic words (including select lyrics) and vibrant paintings.

2. Flip Flapjacks

It’s Raining Pigs & Noodles
By Jack Prelutsky    Illustrated by James Stevenson. (Greenwillow, 2000)

Master of wordplay, puckish poet Prelutsky tries to tangle tongues and create pictures with words in these sometimes irreverent and very funny rhymes.

Six Sick Sheep: 101 Tongue TwistersSix Sick Sheep: 101 Tongue Twisters
By Johanna Cole & Stephanie Calmenson    Illustrated by Alan Tiegreen. (HarperCollins, 1993)

The challenge is in the words (and the line illustrations are fun; too): try to say these lines aloud more than once! The tongue twisters are sure to tangle, tie and tickle tongues.

Tasty Poems
By Jill Bennett   Illustrated by Nick Sharratt (Oxford University Press, 1998, c1992)

Poems about food using lots of alliteration may tangle tongues while whetting appetites for more. Silly poems are humorously (and colorfully) illustrated.

A Twister of Twists, A Tangler of Tongues: Tongue Twisters
Collected by Alvin Schwartz    Illustrated by Glen Rounds (Lippincott, 1972)

Tongue twisters are traditional – and here, tongue twisters old and new have been playfully collected, presented and illustrated.

3. I Love Pie

Cherry Pies and Lullabies
By Lynn Reiser (Greenwillow, 1998)

Cherry pies and a lullaby connect girls and women across four generations in this handsomely illustrated story. Tortilla & Lullabies/Tortillas y cancioncitas (also by Lynn Reiser, illustrated by Corazone Valientes, 1998) is a bilingual companion volume, in which Hispanic daughters and mothers are unified across generations. And each time they engage in the activity, whether making tortillas or cherry pies, “ was the same, but different.”

Children’s Step-by-Step Cookbook
By Angela Wilkes (DK, 2001)

Follow the directions, choose a dish, put together delicious recipes and make cooking a tradition in your family!

Gathering the Sun: An Alphabet in English & Spanish
By Alma Flor Ada    Illustrated by Simon Silva (Rayo, 1997)

The 28 letters of the Spanish alphabet are used as the device to present poems in English and Spanish about agricultural experiences. Vibrant paintings and lyrical language convey the natural beauty.

4. A-E and I-0 and You!

Amazing Grace
By Mary Hoffman    Illustrated by Caroline Binch (Dial, 1991)

When Grace puts her mind to it, she can do anything – including being Peter Pan in the class play.

McBroom’s Wonderful One-Acre Farm
By Sid Fleischman    Illustrated by Quentin Blake (HarperCollins, 1997 ed.)

Practice long and short vowels as you laugh (ha, ha & hee, hee) your way through this funny tall tale in which McBroom finds that his many acres are piled one on top of the other!

Old MacDonald Had a FarmOld MacDonald Had a Farm
Illustrated by Glen Rounds (Holiday House, 1990 ed.)

A crusty old farmer introduces his musical menagerie in this funny interpretation of a familiar song.

5. 50 States

Celebrate the Fifty States!
By Loreen Leedy (Holiday House, 1999)

This playful hodgepodge is perfect for browsing and learning tidbits about the United States. Both text and illustration are funny and informative.

Scrambled States of America
By Laurie Keller (Holt, 1998)

Bored with the same old arrangement, the states decide to visit each other and so make a scrambled mess of America. This is a quirky and fun way to travel the states!

Quilt of States
By Adrienne Yorinks (National Geographic, 2005)

Eye-catching quilts combine with stories to engage and inform, revealing aspects of each state and how it became a part of the union.

Train of States
Parents' Choice Gold Award
By Peter Sis (Greenwillow, 2004)

An elaborately illustrated circus car for each state (with Washington DC as the caboose) creates the train which introduces each state and its symbols (bird, flower and more) in the order of admission to the union.

6. The Limerick Song

The Hopeful Trout and Other Limericks
By John Ciardi    Illustrated by Susan Meddaugh (Houghton Mifflin, 1989)

Travel to outer space or into Suge’s room in these engaging limericks illustrated with a light touch.

Lots of Limericks
Collected by Myra Cohn Livingston    Illustrated by Rebecca Perry (McElderry, 1991)

A wide range of limericks sure to entertain and absorb are presented in one accessible collection.

There Once Was a Very Odd School and Other Lunch-Box LimericksThere Once Was a Very Odd School and Other Lunch-Box Limericks
By Stephen Krensky    Illustrated by Tamara Petrosino (Dutton, 2004)

In this zany school, there’s recess all day and lots of limerick laughs.

7. A Pirate’s Life

Do Pirates Take Baths?
By Kathy Tucker    Illustrated by Nadine Bernard Wescott (Whitman, 1994)

These roughnecks make pirating look like great fun as their adventures unfold in rhyming text and comic illustrations.

Everything I Know About Pirates
By Tom Lichtenheld (Simon & Schuster, 2000)

When the author started wondering about the whys of pirates, he came up with an imaginative, irreverent “reference” book filled with laughs.

How I Became a PirateHow I Became A Pirate
Parents' Choice Gold Award
By Melinda Long    Illustrated by David Shannon (Harcourt, 2003)

Jeremy’s fantastic, funny, and ultimately satisfying adventures with pirates on the high seas begin while he builds a sand castle and his parents are occupied with other things.

8. Pig Latin Polka

The Cat’s Elbow & Other Secret Languages
Collected by Alvin Schwartz    Illustrated by Margot Zemach (Farrar, 1985 ed)

Kids have always been attracted to secret languages. Learn pig Latin and other coded ways to talk covertly with friends and family.

Once Upon MacDonald’s Farm
By Stephen Gammell (Simon & Schuster, 2000, c1981)

Old MacDonald did have a farm but he wasn’t much of a farmer. But this take off on the well known song is as funny as trying to speak in pig Latin!

Pig Latin--Not Just for Pigs
By Kate McMullen    Illustrated by Bill Basso (Grossett & Dunlap, 2005)

This latest installment in the Dragon Slayers’ Academy series features a pig Latin speaking swine, an inept wizard and lots of laughs.

Runny Babbit: A Billy Sook
By Shel Silverstein (HarperCollins, 2005)

Mixing up the beginning of words makes for a funny and interesting way to communicate as this collection of Silverstein poems posthumously published proves.

9. Dagnabbit!

Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day
By Judith Viorst    Illustrated by Ray Cruz (Atheneum, 1972)

Everyone has had a day like Alexander’s rotten day. But things always improve and it seems that it’s all in how it’s handled!

Angry Dragon
By Thierry Robberceht    Illustrated by Pilippe Goossens (Clarion, 2003)

The young narrator becomes a dragon unable to speak when he gets angry. Like this boy, however, anger subsides and his parents assure him of their love.

How Are You Peeling? Foods With Moods
By Saxton Freymann & Joost Elffers (Scholastic, 1999)

Expressive fruits and vegetables illustrate moods and emotions ranging from anger to elation. After all, once the feeling is identified, it’s much easier to discuss!

10. A Riddle in the Middle

Funny You Should Ask: Making Up Jokes & Riddles with Wordplay
By Marvin Terban    Illustrated by John O’Brien (Clarion, 1992)

Words can sound the same but have different meanings and spellings. This book proves that the more you know, the funnier it gets with riddles and puns and even a riddle in the middle!

Riddles and More Riddles
By Bennett Cerf    Illustrated by Debbie Palen (Random House, 1999 ed.)

Easy to read riddles (but harder to answer) and groaners are presented here with bubbly, comic illustrations.

Walking the Bridge of Your Nose: Wordplay Rhymes PoemsWalking the Bridge of Your Nose: Wordplay Rhymes Poems
Selected by Michael Rosen    Illustrated by Chloe Cheese (Kingfisher, 1999)

Become baffled, bamboozled, bewildered and beguiled with this playful, illustrated collection of rhymes, tongue twisters, poems and more.

11. Black Socks

Fox in Socks
By Dr. Seuss (Random House, c1993, 1965)

Whose socks? Knox or Fox? What and where kind of socks, did you say? Predictable, repeating words are used in this humorous saga featuring Seussain classics, Fox and Knox in, on, and over socks (or sox).

Sock Monkey Boogie Woogie: A Friend is MadeSock Monkey Boogie Woogie: A Friend is Made
By Cece Bell (Candlewick, 2004)

Sock Monkey needs a partner for the Celebrity Dance but not just anyone will do. Laugh with the cheeky adventures of this sock guy and his partners as they dance the night away.

Timothy Cox Will Not Change His Socks
By Robert Kinerk    Illustrated by Stephen Gammell (Simon & Schuster, 2005)

What, Timothy Cox wonders, would happen if he didn’t change his socks for a month? The odiferous, chaotic results are presented in rhyme accompanied by vivacious and hilarious illustrations.

12. Is Not, Is Too

The Golly Sisters Go West
By Betsy Byars    Illustrated by Sue Truesdell (HarperCollins, 1989)

May-May and Rose, sisters and friends, head West in a covered wagon and entertain folks and readers along the way in this first tale of the silly sisters.

The Pain and the Great One
By Judy Blume    Illustrated by Irene Trivas (Doubleday, 1984, c1974)

Having a younger brother can be a pain, realistically captured here with verve and humor.

The Stories Julian Tells
Parents' Choice Gold Award
By Ann Cameron    Illustrted by Ann Strugnell (Random House, 1981)

Julian narrates these engaging family stories in which he and his younger brother Huey sometimes get along well, sometimes not.

13. It Only Takes A Minute

Family Pictures/Cuadros de Familia
Parents' Choice New & Noteworthy
By Carmen Lopez Garza (Children’s Book Press, 1990)

The author/artist’s recalls the warmth and love of her Mexican American family. Bilingual text and warm paintings convey the love and joy in the daily activities.

In Daddy’s Arms I Am Tall
Collected and illustrated by Javaka Steptoe (Lee & Low, 2001)

Stunning illustrations and short poems celebrate the roles that African American fathers play and the ways they show love for their children.

Love Is…
From the King James Bible and illustrated by Wendy Anderson Halperin (Simon & Schuster, 2001)

Highly detailed illustration place Paul’s letter to the Corinthians in a contemporary setting to demonstrate what love means in this context.

14. IM4U

By William Steig (Simon & Schuster, 2000, c1968)

Coded language (CDB = See The Bee) and cartoon illustrations challenge creative thinking skills while tickling funny bones.

By William Steig (Farrar, 1986)

This companion to CDB is similarly formatted, equally funny and just as engaging with clues provided in the humorous drawings.

I Spy: An Alphabet in ArtI Spy: An Alphabet Book in Art
Parents' Choice Gold Award
By Lucy Micklethwait (Greenwillow, 1992)

Classic works of art are perfect to create puzzling puzzlers, calling on readers to find objects that begin with successive letters of the alphabet. Decoding skills are much needed here!

Contributor note:
Cathy Fink & Marcy Marxer are multiple GRAMMY® Award winners whose children's and family recordings have delighted fans for over 20 years. They have also received numerous awards from The Parents' Choice Foundation, The American Library Association, Early Childhood News and the Washington Area Music Association.

Maria Salvadore, M. Ed., M.L.S. is the former head of Children’s Services, Washington D.C. Public Libraries.


Hip Cat Charlie Parker Played Bebop Charlie Parker Played Bebop Gathering the Sun Children's Step-By-Step Cookbook Children's Step-By-Step Cookbook Train of States Scrambled States of America Scrambled States of America Runny Babbit Pig Latin  Not Just for Pigs Pig Latin - Not Just for Pigs Family Pictures Family Pictures Love Is ...

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