I am somewhat of a thematic programmer, but I am also a weirdo who connects books, rhymes and songs the way Thelonius Monk improvises– it makes glorious sense, but not in the way you’d usually expect.
I needed a new story time to take out on some preschool visits, and I was blanking on what I wanted to present. I’d recently read aloud to a group of third graders for a Day of Reading, and I’d taken some books from our woefully under-utilized folk and fairytale collection: The Talking Eggs by San Souci, illustrated by Pinkey, and Gobble, Gobble, Slip, Slop: A Tale of a Very Greedy Cat, told and illustrated by Meilo So.
I’d wanted to use more of So’s books with kids ever since I’d discovered the wonderful Tasty Baby Bellybuttons (have I told you about how a colleague and I told that story using stick puppets? Remind me to do that, will ya’? It presents interesting problems regarding fair use, copyright infringement, and whether or not small children should be exposed to handcrafted stick puppets).
Anyway. I read that book to the 3rd graders and we all fell in love with it. The watercolors! The ontemontepeia! The decadent grossosity of that greedy, greedy cat! The classic fairy-tale trope of cutting your way out of a greedy creature’s belly!
While it had worked well with 3rd graders, I worried that it would be too difficult for preschoolers to follow…but… I wanted to read it! And nothing else! You know how sometimes you get a craving for some very specific food (mmm, Matt’s Chocolate Chip cookies**), and nothing but that food will satisfy you (Chips Ahoy? AS IF!)? Well, I had a book craving, and no other book would do.
So I decided to try it with preschoolers anyway. After all, no guts, no glory, right? With one book being such a challenge, I decided to round out the program with some old favorites that I knew more or less by heart. I grabbed Cookie’s Week by Ward, and…and…well, I couldn’t find another cat book I wanted to take out. So I settled on If You Give A Mouse A Cookie (what can I tell you, I’m a sucker for the second person pov with first conditionals).
So I ended up with a three book program:
- Gobble Gobble Slip Slop
I wanted to lead off with the longer, more complex story while their attention spans were still fresh.
- If You Give A Mouse a Cookie
I connected Gobble to this book by talk about the letter C being in both “cat” and “cookie”. I also commented on the greediness of small furry animals, and I may have told the story of how once, in college, a mouse chewed into my jar of peanut butter and how furious I became. I may or may not have sung “C is for Cookie!” loudly and alone, and then rambled a bit on how much BETTER Grover is than Elmo.
- Cookie’s Week
This one was prefaced by a chat about how we read a book about a cat! and then a book about cookies! and finally…a cat! named Cookie! OMG! After all that talk about food, we also made a peanut butter and jelly sandwich (that’s an action song I’ll teach you later, if you don’t know it already).
The kids didn’t care overly much about my oh so cutesy theme-osity, but the teachers chuckled, and really, when you think about it, it’s pretty easy to get a preschooler to laugh (I mean, did you hear them bust a gut when Cookie fell in the toilet? that could have been the whole book, that’s how little they cared after I said the word “toilet”), but when you can tickle early childhood teachers–for they are a savvy, quirky bunch–then you KNOW you’ve brought the funny.
So while Gobble, Gobble, Slip, Slop is a fairly complex tale (both SLJ and Booklist suggest it for K-3rd) by perhaps sheer force of will and booklove, I successfully presented it to mixed age groups of 3-5 year olds. For the more squirrelly groups, I helped them engage with the text by having them chant the refrain of “gobble gobble slip slop” with me, while clapping their thighs (that’s patschen if you’re German, or want to be twee; be twee with me, won’t you?).
What did I learn, dear reader? That one should listen to one’s cravings, because they might lead you to unexpectedly wonderful places. Or give you food poisoning.
[insert witty closing line here]
*Nancy Pearl has Book Lust and Book Crush; I have my food metaphors. No wonder my pants don’t fit.
**Man, have you had Matt’s? Now that’s why my pants don’t fit.