How the story grows…

picture books and beyond – stories and activities to share

When the Wind Blew Nursery Rhyme Mash-Ups


Once children become familiar with traditional nursery rhymes, it’s fun for them to read mash-ups. This new book by Alison Jackson, illustrated by Doris Barrette is a perfect example. In When the Wind Blew, a baby rocking in the treetop settles atop the old shoe home of a woman with many children. Thus begins the quest to return the baby to where it belongs. Jack and Jill, Mary’s little lamb, and Jack’s candlestick all make appearances in this rhyming picture book. Children familiar with these rhymes will delight in the mixed-up tale.


Looking through my collection of toys and things, I’ve put together a nursery rhyme mash-up suitcase.


What happens if the Old Mother Hubbard is visited by the Muffin Man and the cow who jumped over the moon?

How about if the baby in the tree top and Jack and Jill all tumble onto the old woman’s shoe? What will she do with more children?

Use your imagination and with your children tell stories of familiar characters in unfamiliar settings.

In my suitcase, I’ve included:

Rock-a-bye Baby
Jack and Jill
Little Miss Muffet
The Muffin Man
Old Mother Hubbard
The Cow Who Jumped over the Moon
Three Little Kittens
The Old Woman in the Shoe


I’m sure you can think of more!


Primary Colors and White Rabbit


In White Rabbit’s Color Book by Alan Baker, an adorable realistic looking rabbit acts in a very unrabbit-like way when she comes across three big tubs of paint. First, she hops into the sunshine yellow tub and becomes a beautiful bright yellow. The red looks enticing too, so in she hops. Look at that! The rabbit has become orange.


After a quick shower, she begins experimenting with the other primary colors. This very cute, very simple picture book is a perfect beginning lesson in primary and secondary colors.


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Of course, after reading, who could resist breaking out the paints and doing a little experimenting of your own? You wouldn’t want to just take white rabbit’s word for it without trying it out yourself! How much of each primary color do you need to add? What happens if you keep adding more yellow to that blue?

Use cotton swabs for easy clean-up and for promoting pre-writing skills. They’re perfect for exercising the pincer grip muscles needed to grip a pencil.

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While you’re at it, check out Alan Baker’s other rabbit books. Gray Rabbit’s Odd One Out is another favorite of mine.

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Bedtime Story Under the Stars

As summer neasleep-well-little-bearrs and the evenings become warmer, make story time special by taking your books and blankets outside at night. For a treat, put bedtime off for a little while. Take a favorite relaxing book or two and a flashlight. Listen to a couple of stories, and then turn off the light. Your children are accustomed to playing in the yard in the bright sunlight, but might not be aware of the wonders of the natural world at night.

Talk about the sounds you hear. This would be a good time to talk about nocturnal animals. Which animals are awake at night, and why? How do they see in the dark?

Try this activity when the moon is shining bright in the sky. Talk about how the moon does not have its own light, but only shines because of sunlight reflecting off its surface.

Sleep Well, Little Bear by Quint Buchholz is a calming, magical book that would work well for this activity. Even after his usual bedtime rituals, bear is not yet tired. He climbs out of bed to gaze out his window. The full moon shines brightly on his whole world, and bear thinks about the places and people that are so familiar to him in the daytime and wonders what they are up to during the night. Down by the dock, a shirt blows in the wind. In the afternoon, when the little bear was a pirate, it had been the sail for a boat. Perhaps tomorrow, when the sun comes up, he will explore distant lands again.

Take advantage of the warmer weather coming our way for a very special story time with your children.

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Henry’s Map by David Elliot

Henry's-mapBeing a very particular sort of pig, Henry likes organization. “A place for everything and everything in its place” he says.


Henry thinks the barnyard needs some order, so he decides to draw a map. That way everyone could know what belongs where. Taking his drawing with him, he travels around the barnyard drawing each building or landmark and the animal that belongs with it. The sheep belong next to the wool shed, Abigail the cow belongs by the tree, Mr. Brown the horse is drawn by his stable, and the chickens belong by the square coop.

However, as Henry wanders around the barnyard, all the animals are so interested in his map that they follow him. In the end, all the animals look back at the farm and are dismayed because they aren’t in their places! Away they race with Henry’s map, falling back into their places along the way. At last, when Henry reaches his sty and goes inside, he smiles. Everything is back in place!

This book provides a great opportunity for practicing some beginning map skills.


 I used the Cat in the Hat mapping tool from to make a simple printable map of a child’s room. A school-aged child can do this independently, or a preschooler can do this with some guidance. Of course, you can always use pencil and paper and draw out your map like Henry did.






After printing out the map, I placed some small animal stickers on various pieces of furniture on the paper. Have your child take a corresponding stuffed animal, look at the map, and decide where each animal belongs.



This activity helps children learn visual literacy skills by not only identifying an image, but studying and evaluating what that image represents. Interpreting images is an important aspect of effective communication. That, and working with simple maps is just plain fun!

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Let’s Make Rabbits



This simple story by Leo Lionni provides a perfect opportunity for an easy Spring craft.




In this story, a pencil and a pair of scissors decided to make some rabbits.  First the pencil drew a rabbit, then the scissors made one out of scraps of brightly colored paper.  After dining on handcrafted carrots, the two new friends went to sleep with their stomachs full.

After waking up hungry again, they come upon a real carrot.  (The shadow proves it’s real.)  Imagine their surprise when, after eating the real carrot, the pencil rabbit and the scrap paper rabbit become real too!




I found some beautiful scrapbook paper half-off at the store yesterday, and decided to make some rabbits of my own.  After tracing over the illustration in the book with plain white paper, I cut out the patterns to trace onto the colorful paper.  It was fun mixing up the patterns to make new rabbits.  They looked more real after adding some cute googly eyes!



For the older children, this craft provides great practice for fine motor skills.  For the younger ones, cut out the pieces yourself and let them use their creativity to combine the patterned paper in their own way.


Happy, hoppy Spring!


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