Growing Reader

Sing-Along Stories:
8 Delightful Picture Books Inspired by Children’s Songs

by Jennifer Garry

Little kids love to listen to rhyming, rhythmic, repetitive stories. When they can get into the rhythm (sometimes with their whole bodies!) or predict what the next line might be, they’re filled with absolute delight. They truly feel as if they’re one with the story.

A great way to make this happen is by reading stories that are inspired by familiar children’s songs. These beautiful picture books practically beg for little readers to sing or chant along.

  • The Itsy Bitsy Spider

    by Iza Trapani

    Iza Trapani also gives a classic song a new spin. We’re used to hearing about the itsy bitsy spider and the water spout, but this intrepid spider comes head to head with a fan, a mouse, a cat, a maple tree and more before spinning herself a beautiful web and relaxing in the sun. As rhythmic and lyrical as the original, this version is destined to become a favorite.

  • Old Mikamba Had a Farm

    by Rachel Isadora

    Instead of the Midwestern locale you might think of when hearing the classic “Old MacDonald Had a Farm,” this version takes place in the African plains. Readers will be introduced to a menagerie of African wildlife and their various sounds. Some, like elephants, giraffes, and baboons, will be familiar. Others, like dassies and springboks, will be less familiar. Either way, kids won’t be able to help but sing along.

  • There Was an Old Lady Who Swallowed a Fly

    by Simms Taback

    Kids get a real kick out of this folk poem and its outrageous (and somewhat morbid!) storyline featuring an old lady who consumes larger and larger animals to track down a fly she swallowed. This Caldecott Honor-winning picture book rendition has bright, dynamic illustrations with funny cut-outs that give a view into the old lady’s increasingly crowded tummy.

  • The Seals on the Bus

    by Lenny Hort, illustrated by G. Brian Karas

    The Seals on the Bus offers a silly retelling of the popular children’s classic. Instead of the familiar rhyme about a bus, this book follows an unassuming family as they get on a bus full of seals, geese, monkeys, and other animals. Kids will be able to sing along as they laugh at the multimedia illustrations of the shocked family and watch the story become more and more absurd.

  • Row, Row, Row Your Boat

    by Jane Cabrera

    Jane Cabrera has many books that are inspired by children’s nursery rhymes and songs. This one follows a puppy and a kitten as they row down a twisty-turny stream in the middle of a jungle. The first page contains the well-known rhyme, while the following pages follow the same rhythm and structure but introduce the friends to new creatures. They encounter mice, monkeys, tigers, and more before wearily rowing back to mommy dog and falling asleep.

  • There’s a Hole in the Log on the Bottom of the Lake

    by Loren Long

    In this fun take on the traditional folk song “There’s a Hole in the Bottom of the Sea,” readers are introduced to a frog who lives in a log on the bottom of the lake. Through cumulative, rhythmic lines we learn about the frog, his log, a fly that perches on his corkscrew curl, and a gnat that lands on top of the fly. But there’s a second narrative to this tale that’s just as engaging as the first: a turtle and his tiny snail friend provide hilarious additional commentary to the more structured verse.

  • We Are the Dinosaurs

    by Laurie Berkner with illustrations by Ben Clanton

    Like There’s a Hole in the Log on the Bottom of the Lake, this one also tells an additional story through illustrations. Following the lyrics of the popular children’s musician’s song, readers watch as some dinosaur friends say goodbye to their parents and march off on an adventure. They stop and eat their food (when they’re in the mood), hike up into a cave, and rest there for the night before rushing back down the mountain — which turns out to be a volcano that’s ready to erupt. Rhythmic and familiar, kids won’t be able to resist singing along.

  • Rocket-Bye Baby: A Spaceflight Lullaby

    by Danna Smith, illustrated by Ziyue Chen

    Perfectly timed for the 50th anniversary of the moon landing in 2019, this sweet story puts a STEM twist on the “Rock-a-bye Baby” bedtime lullaby. A mom and child board a little rocket and set off on a journey through space, observing the natural beauty of the sky, moon, planets, and constellations as they zoom by.