I wasn’t going to do another picture book review for a while, but my Move with Music kids’ reaction this morning to My Heart is Like a Zoo by Michael Hall made me rethink my position.
I confess, I didn’t pick this book for storytime. In fact, the first time I read it I thought, “Eh.” It was cute, but I didn’t see anything special about it. It’s just about a bunch of animals. “My heart is like a zoo — eager as a beaver, steady as a yak,” etc., etc., etc., as the King of Siam would say. That’s been done before.
But for reasons I cannot explain, the kids loved it. Sometimes that just happens. Even better, this also happens to be a great book for several of the early literacy skills. The fact that the kids loved it, well there’s your print motivation (interest in and enjoyment of books) right there.
And all the animals are composed almost entirely of hearts. As you may recall from this post, shape recognition is the first step of letter knowledge. Kids need to be able to pick out the differences in shapes in order to recognize letters and subsequently assign meaning to them. And of course the kids had so much fun pointing out all the different hearts in the pictures: “The feet are hearts! And the nose is a heart! And look, the bee’s wings are hearts!” That alone is super cute, once you get past the grown up tendency to shout, “Yes, they’re ALL hearts!”
The text is in rhyme, which is great for phonological awareness (hearing and playing with the smaller sounds in words). That is, if you can hear the text over all the shouts of locating hearts all over the place. All that talking, by the way, does great things for your kid’s narrative skills (ability to tell a story).
And finally, this is a great vocabulary book for several reasons. You’ve got all the different animals, some of which are a bit unusual such as heron, yak and hornet. And the text itself is a bit adventurous. The fox is crafty. There’s a gloomy lone coyote walking in the fog. The peaceful portly walrus is lounging on a towel. I don’t know about you, but I don’t use these words very frequently, and I don’t often see them in kids’ books.
So here’s this great, multi-faceted book that I would have completely overlooked had it not been for the programming prowess of Mr. Michael. Which leads to the title of this post. Although I often wish they did, books don’t come with owner’s manuals. But with a little creativity, even seemingly simple books can offer big learning opportunities!
And by the way, Move with Music is just about over for the season. If you just can’t wait until fall to get your groove on again, check out Get Musical this summer!