Ep 9 S1 Transcript
“1 Book, 2 books, better than Seuss Books: Rhyming & Keepsake books you actually want to Keep”
Intro: Welcome to the Picture Bookstagang Podcast
And we’re The Picture Bookstagang! We invite you to join us here every other week while we discuss amazing books and issues in children’s literature. As well as Early literacy education and parenting as it relates to reading. We can’t wait to dig in and deep and get nerdy about picture books with you.
0:36 Kelly: Hellllloooo! and welcome back to the picture bookstagang podcast and today I would like to reintroduce the Canadian goose and the Beetle juice … my cohosts Ale and Coco!
Ale: Hello I’m ale and I am offended. Canadian Geese are awful creatures all they do is hiss and crap.
0:58 Coco: Hello I’m Coco and I’m so ready for spoopy season!! Hahaha
1:03 Kelly: Heck yes spoopy season!! And yeah you are right Canadian geese are horrifying birds… but I needed to force a terrible rhyme to prove a point!!! Haha. Ok, ok so the reason for my terrible rhyming introduction today is because we want to talk about how to replace all that awful Dr. Seuss in your home or classroom library, and dig a bit into rhyming books and why they are important, as well as some great alternatives to those keepsake books and we want to thank everyone in advance who came out with their thoughts and suggestions on this topic on Instagram! We have definitely gotten a bunch of new titles we need to check out! If you would like to see a full list of all of the book suggestions and accounts who gave them you’ll find a link to the list in the show notes below!
Coco: Yeah this is a topic we have touched on before in our episode about building a diverse bookshelf – but there is a lot of people much smarter than us that have gotten deep into the Racism of Theodore Geisel, also known as Dr. Seuss, and we are going to link that in the show notes as well. This isn’t just personal racism either, it’s woven into the illustrations and content of his books – “The Cat in the Hat” as an example is based on the Black Minstrel trope, which is super harmful.
Ale: Also, is it just me or are they incredibly ugly books? I mean. There are so many beautiful, heart felt poetic books that rhyme, like, “one fish two fish red fish blue fish” is not the best that humanity has to offer here. Okay? One of our followers this week @thisbookwins wrote in our public conversation on rhyming books that, “if the majority of people are aspiring to “inspire a generation of readers” the tools used have to be inspiring” and that’s so true, and it goes for the rhyming and poetic books that we are choosing as well as the prose.
3:00 Kelly: That’s such a great point, thank you @thisbookwins. And it really ties in to my real passion here that, if we are choosing bad books, that support white supremacy, like the Dr. Seuss books. What are we inspiring exactly? I’m not, and have never been advocating to ban them – because I don’t think that’s productive – I am advocating to stop promoting them and stop paying for them – I am advocating for people to think critically and put the harm that they do ahead of their nostalgic feelings. We can stop making them profitable to produce. I want to see Seuss replaced with better books as the so-called status quo of a child’s bookshelf.
3:38 Coco: Yeah we can’t stop libraries or bookstores from carrying seuss, but we can discourage seuss themed classrooms, and seuss themes parties, and seuss themed weeks at school, and the default of gifting “Oh the Places You’ll Go” because not only do all of these books perpetuate racism…. There are actually just definitely better books out there!
3:58 Ale: One of the main issues, and you may be at home thinking this, is that children need rhyming books as part of early literacy and childhood development. One of our followers @asianlitforkids wrote so succinctly about this, they said “From an early literacy stand point..- rhymes are really good at building phonemic awareness. That is essentially the ability to hear and manipulate sounds. This is important for all readers, and is especially important for English learners.”
Which is a great point. And that it’s hard to find good rhyming books, if you just walk into a giant bookstore, are you the kind of person who is going to start flipping through every book in the stacks to find one that rhymes? Or are you gonna head over to the recommended classics, and just pick the books that are being promoted as the essential children’s library, And Seuss is kind of the default there for rhyming books it is always on special shelf easy to grab.
4:57 Coco: Absolutely Ale, I agree with you. But today we want to celebrate rhyming books as a genre, we want to talk about all the wonderful books, that you can find, that flow and rhyme, and that are really songs of the heart. Because we want to give people the names of the books out there that are just wonderful, that they can go to, and feel confident asking for, or just quickly buy online. So you can fill up that shelf with great rhyming books, that like maybe aren’t also being read at Klan meetings…. Ya know?!
And I just think it’s just so much worse for me when a book blatantly says it’s a quote unquote “rhyming book” but then it doesn’t work entirely, that’s more disappointing to me because I expect that if the author is making a bold statement that the text will be finessed and perfected.
5:45 Kelly: Its so true you know they really have to be done just perfectly Or they just fall so sooooo flat. Like our friend Saranya aka toddlers.who.read was saying “Not all rhymes are created equal.” Which I think is true. And I’m not going to name names but we have a book, and we were reading it last night …it’s about a weasel. The rhyme is so clunky and it just doesn’t flow at all… but because they have forced this rhyme and rhythm so much you get totally tripped up while you are reading. It’s a total story ruiner.
6:21 Coco: ugh It’s just the worst when you are reading out loud and the rhyme just like falls apart? And this week, while we were discussing this on Insta, that was one thing that kept coming up again and again, it is just such a big pet peeve for most book lovers. But I don’t mind rhyming books that are done well, and are cleverly done enough that each line doesn’t end with the same exact word but I just can’t stand bad ones. And I am really feeling what Alyssa aka childrenslitworld Was saying about how she was so annoyed by some poorly crafted rhyming books that she literally took a sharpie to them to fix it! And that sounds really satisfying actually.
7:00 Ale: See I get that. I do. And I think the thing with rhyming books, is that they require more I dunno craftsmanship? A different skill set? Than just your regular prose book, because it’s not just about the end of the sentence making a rhyme sound. It’s about the timing, it’s about the cadence. It’s like rhyming music just without the melody. There’s just a lot that needs to happen for it to be good.
7:31 Kelly: I definitely value rhythm over the rhyme. I didn’t realize this specifically until I actually complained to our daycare teacher about a “Dr. Seuss day” and explained how racist he was, and then had to manage a change to “Rhyming Day” and…. I Could hardly find any books to bring in for it … oops haha. But, we do actually have some favourites. “The Little Red Barn”, by Margaret Wise Brown is one. It’s just a soothing predictable bedtime read.
8:17 Ale: Yes we have one like that, it’s beautiful, I actually read it to Corrie and Kelly the other day, and yes if you are wondering we read books to each other on the internet.
8:27 Coco: It’s true we totally have story time with each other like more than once a week.
Kelly: Uh yeah it’s the best who doesn’t want their friends to read them picture books over zoom with a cocktail?
Ale: Yeah that’s a normal thing to do, like totally. Haha Anyway, but yes one of our favourite ever bedtime rhyming reads from when River was little is Go to Sleep Little Farm by Mary Lyn Ray and illustrated by Christopher Silas Neal What I love most about this book is that it has this incredible rhythmic flow. I just think it’s so beautiful and unusual in sort of a fun way. Do I wanna crown it as the best rhyming book we own? Hmmm..maybe. I actually can’t commit to that But I would say like top three.
9:21 Coco: Thats a big statement because I know you have a lot of rhyming books that you love, Ale and on the topic of Christopher Silas Neal, I actually just interviewed him for an upcoming PB&J interview episode! So, watch out for that! It was an awesome conversation and I’m super excited about it.
9:34 Ale: I am looking forward to it he seems like such a nice guy too! Ya know?
Kelly: Me too, we love just his style and all his books! Top ten some of his books for us. Another one we have basically memorized for bedtime at my house that rhymes is “Time For Bed” by Mem Fox which is another old classic about mostly farm animals…. apparently there is just something about a farm that is soothing for bedtime, isn’t there!? Haha
10:05 Coco: Yes, cows are very soothing. Maybe it’s all the chewing, and I think we can agree that chickens are the best.
10:14 Ale: I don’t agree to anything. I just think from a practical perspective as well, rhyming is so important for early literacy development and phonetic awareness. And it’s not just me, other people agree with me. Hanna from @myliteracyspace was saying she loves to use“rhyming books as a mentor text or to reinforce… essential phonological awareness skill” myliteracyspace
And for me I really actually use rhyming and poetry in a lot of different ways every single day, so we will memorize rhyming books, and other small poems and then recite them without the book. So it works on memory, on articulation, on sort of understanding the way words should flow together out loud? One of my favourites of all time is “I took the Moon for a Walk” is one of my favourites because it’s so natural, and it’s very very much like the classic poem “the Lady of Shalott” by Tennyson in terms of rhythmic form (and sidenote actually I privately kind of wonder if it was closely inspired)
11:26 Kelly: It could be I’m not sure. yeahh it’s still just not something I seek out in a book, I’m more or less working on using rhyming word activities and paying more attention to pointing them out in our books when they happen, or even when they happen while we are talking. When you rhyme. I really stick to… in my very true form and Ale is going to laugh at me about this, but I just stick to the newer last decade releases and I vastly prefer books that aren’t TRYING to rhyme or be specifically marketed as a “rhyming book” like Corrie said earlier because it’s going to be boring, it just is.
Ale: That’s so hurtful.
12:18 Coco: and interestingly ….picture books specifically written in rhyme are a little harder to find now… and there is actually a reason why, we have found out! So our friend Lucy Catchpole who runs a Boutique Literary Agency called the Catchpole Agency in Oxford was telling us “They do not do well in co-editions because they’re untranslatable and most of the money is in co-editions. But UK publishers often keep a space for verse in case the next Gruffalo comes along.”
Ale: I love you Lucyyyyy.
12: 48 Kelly: We all love Lucy and you can find The Catchpoles on Instagram definitely worth a follow. And of course makes perfect sense because a rhyme in English is not a rhyme in German, or French, or Spanish, and so on and so forth. How many Gruffalo’s are there out there though and one great point that Annahita from @MDLMbooks made the other day on Ale’s instagram post was basically that They also don’t always work across dialects and accents. So even in the Uk, something may rhyme for an english reader, but not necessarily for a Scottish reader. They very often don’t work from US to UK and vice versa. She said she hates reading Ada twist scientist and Rosie Revere engineer because in her British accent, it doesn’t work as well and it makes it unenjoyable! Which I just think is a fascinating perspective. And actually I really enjoy “Ada Twist” and the whole Questioneers series but I had never considered that aspect of how dialect and accent might alter the experience.
13:45 Ale: Right and that does really affect I guess how things sell and what’s popular and different countries. But it also has to do with the trends of what people are wanting to publish. And our bookstagang friend Kallan @HoustonLibraryFinds also brought up a great point from the publishing perspective, she is just such a funny lady, she wrote “It’s probably mostly the trend picture books are moving towards. It would be really hard to rhyme a biographical kids book about Ruth Bader Ginsburg, I mean, what rhymes with Ginsburg???” AND I GOTTA SAY Touchee Kallan, what does rhyme with Ginsburg? Merg…dirg..I got nothing.
14:36 Kelly: Yeah I think it might be best to stick to prose with that.
Ale: But you know what I think? I have a Hot take here…
Coco: HOT TAKE HOT TAKE!
14:46 Ale: I think this kind of attitude that you know, it’s so difficult to do right that you shouldn’t even try is totally defeatist. SO many people when we were talking about this were coming to this conclusion. One person @BelleTheCat wrote “ I was in a writing course last year and was told that we should avoid rhyme because it is often poorly done and we should stick with prose.” and I’m like What is that attitude? Like instead of saying okay, it’s hard and there is a lot to doing it well, we just say oh forget it, it won’t make enough money anyways. I strongly disagree with this. From the perspective of what children should be reading, young children, rhyme is important. You know? There needs to be space for it, effort made. And I wanna shout out two rhyme loving converts @bookishwaytoplay and @babylibrarians, Bookishwaytoplay was actually a children’s book editor, who after becoming a parent really came to appreciate what rhyming books provided for her reading experiences with her kids. And then @Babylibrarians who wrote “Before having a child, I was anti-rhyme. Now that I have a child, I’ve discovered a joy of rhyming books…if they’re really really well done. I can pause before I get to the end of a line and my toddler can guess the last word, and she has an easier time memorizing rhyming books (and so do I. There are several I will remember always).” Like, this experience of enjoying the books with a child and giving them what they need should be one of the major goals of the books that are being published. And I know, I know, it’s not the same as fighting for equitable representation in kidlit but I got to say the fact that crapitalism is robbing us of good poetic rhyming books, and I’m just not having it.
Kelly: Oh my goodness…
16:3- Coco: Yes *sigh* Crapitalism is indeed the enemy, I couldn’t agree more. But there still are lots of great rhyming books out there! We got so many suggestions. One thing I noticed is that a lot of them are board books like the Sandra Boynton Books that are so very popular, which don’t need as much content so they don’t have to go on and on with awful repetitive boring rhymes forever and ever and ever and ever…
16:43 Kelly: And ever. I think on the topic of Sandra Boynton, like one of our most read almost every night books is the “Going to Bed Book” by Sandra Boynton. I have it totally memorized we read it every night. Something so simple something that rhymes can endure time and space. And I think that there are a lot of modern classics and even future classics that our followers didn’t suggest… and it kind of goes back to when I couldn’t find a rhyming book for that rhyming day at daycare I mention at the earlier the show. We actually have a lot but those books don’t stick out in my mind because they just flow so beautifully they don’t feel like rhyming books. “Steam Train Dream Train”, and “Goodnight Construction Site” are two that just seem obvious that I like.. Possibly might have memorized!? They are best sellers for a reason. They are seamless.
Ale:Yeah but the real question there is does “Steam Train Dream Train” end every sentence with Train?
Kelly: No. NO! Not at all!
Ale: Because that’s gonna be a problem for us.
Kelly: It does none! There is none of that nonsense. It is seamless.
Ale:I’m surprised you bought a book about trains.
Kelly: Listen. Trains are a big deal in this house. Birds and Trains.
Corrie: So, and even in new releases we just got one this week – Ways To Say I love you from Quarto Kids, by Marilyn Singer – It’s a super super cute book, it rhymes, but it’s rhythmic and fun and easy to read. It doesn’t feel forced. It’s adorable?
18:30 Ale: Can quarto do any wrong? Like honestly. I wish they sent me that book. Or any books? So um Mel @quarto if you’re listening can you please send me some books?
Corrie: Mel is the best, hands down
18:43 Kelly: Oh yes Mel at Quarto is my favourite forever and ever and always.
18:50 Ale: But yeah about the prevalence of great rhyming books being board books. I just love good board books and I think that my favourite books are board books for a variety of reasons, not just for Willow my toddler but for River who is four and beginning to read. They are simple text, great for emerging readers to use context clues from the pictures, the pages are easy to turn, they are often written out like song which I love, and they’re easy to wipe down, get those germs off. I say, gotta love it.
19:48 Kelly: Yeah, the wipe down factor has definitely become important in 2020 in a pandemic for sure haha and when I evaluate our collection as a whole, the board books is where I see the greatest percentage of rhyming books, and the ones we have kept around now that my kiddo is 4 and a half years old are the ones that we absolutely cherish because they are beautiful, soothing, predictable books.
20:11 Corrie: Who doesn’t love a good bedtime story eh? And I’m actually going to get this to segue us into the next topic for tonight…because if we are really going to tackle the issue of replacing Dr. Seuss in your collection and that’s the very famous “Oh the Places You’ll Go” which honestly is a standard graduation gift and Baby Shower gift at this point and I have to tell you I don’t get it. I mean… there is this nostalgia factor but what is it accomplishing to have every kid have exactly the same book signed by their teachers.There are WAY more beautiful books out there
20:48 Kelly: I feel kind of bad for the teachers actually, haha. So I did a pretty popular post about this last year and I sort of dubbed this genre “Keepsake books” because I don’t really know exactly what to call them. So let’s keep going with that name. But ultimately its a class of books that are beautiful, affirming, encouraging, hopeful, and hopefully will carry some nostalgia for your kids.
21:13 Ale: Uhghh…so, I don’t like traditional keepsake books, in general. Especially ones that are kind of generally sappy “I love you” or “the world is your oyster” type books. Where you can basically sum up the entire book, into either phrase and save yourself the time and the shelf space. I just don’t enjoy reading them, I don’t feel like my kids have ever really gotten into them either. Does anybody really love reading them? I feel like it’s just a standard thing people think they’re supposed to have. And actually I love giving books, and one thing I did, when I was pregnant with RIver, my first child (But not Willow because, second child you know, gets none of that sappy stuff) I would go to a bookstore every time I had a doctor’s appointment, and I would pick out a book I thought was fun, and I would inscribe it with the date and you know, stuff about the day I bought the book for her. So I think actually many have gotten sort of lost in the chaos that is our book collection, but we definitely still have “Dragons Love Tacos” which I bought after the five month ultrasound. Now that, is a book you wanna keep. Tacos. Dragons. And I don’t think the fact that it isn’t about love, means that I love her any less, or that I wasn’t buying it in the spirit of love? You know? I was buying something I thought she would actually enjoy reading one day. And she does. I don’t need the book to say I love you, I can write that in there myself.
23:18 Kelly: I love that idea! Individuality over institutionalized nostalgia!? Like we can pick books that are ACTUALLY special to your individual child and ya know do something like write a note in it every year on their birthday, or a special day inscription like you did, or have their teachers each year sign it, or give it as a graduation gift. But How much more special is it if it’s a book that they hold a particular value in because you shared it together and choose it especially for them?! Why are we doing things just because everyone else is?! So. Here we are… lets get even more warm and fuzzy. I mean I know Ale is ALREADY warm and fuzzy from all the rhyming…
23:53 Ale: It’s actually all the cheese that I ate.
23:55 Corrie: You think she’s joking folks.
Kelly: She ate a wheel of brie before this.
24”15” But let’s talk about books I recommend about this topic today yes. I would recommend for birthday inscriptions, “When’s My Birthday?” By Julie Fogliano and illustrated by Christian Robinson, who we love and wish would come on our show. It’s just this hilarious little book about this kid that really REALLY wants their birthday to come!. You don’t get that feeling when you’re adult. Or another birthday one we got this year that’s in the running for our best of 2020 picture book list is “I Got You A Present” by Susan McLennan and Mike Erskine-Kellie And that’s about a duck who keeps trying to make presents for a kid.
25:02: Kelly: It’s so funny, we love that one.
25:04 Coco: Oh my gosh I love Christian Robinson! And I think his other book “You Matter” would be an excellent keepsake book as well! For basically any reason at all. All the time always. Another amazing series that you could choose the appropriate Title from is Frank Murphy’s series that started with “A Boy Like You” and the recently released “A Girl Like you” if you want a selection thats not so gender focused there is a forthcoming one next year that is going to be co-authored by Charnaie of @hereweeread called “A Friend Like you” and I absolutely love these books I think they’re also coming out with another one called “A Teacher Like You” which I’m super excited about. And also Frank is like the sweetest human in the world possibly. Every conversation I’ve had with him has been nice.
25:55 Kelly: I don’t think there’s a nicer human in the world. He totally is. I agree. And sort of in that that same vein of books there is the series started by Amy Rosenthal and has been continued on by her Daughter Paris Rosenthal because Amy Rosenthal did pass away.
Ale: Oh that’s so sad.
Kelly: Yeah. The “Dear Girl” “dear boy” and the new “dear baby” books you could also choose something specific to starting school like “The Day You Begin” by Jacqueline Woodson or “The King Of Kindergarten” by Derrick Barnes and Vanessa Brantley Newman – those ones are both super cute books. Another great one that’s a great sort of school related one is All The Ways to Be Smart By Davina Bell, which we are really loving lately.
Coco: I love Davina Bell, she also have another book about anxiety called “Captain Starfish.” Oh Yeah…. There is actually so many better books than “oh the places you’ll go… like a lot of them and we won’t have time to cover all of them. But like Grace Byers book “I Am Enough” is gorgeous, and the new one sequel this year by her “I Believe I can” those ones are actually both beautiful for that idea of writing messages in because there is a lot of white spaces on the pages … you could have a clean copy that you read at home and a special copy that you add to over the years and finally give as a graduation gift “Our Favourite Day of the Year” too would be a great one for school too.
27:24 Kelly: Yes that would be a really nice one to do that with.
27:3 Ale: We have one we really like too, “Never Bring an Alligator to School”
Kelly: Yeah! That one is great.
Ale: I can’t even think about graduation yet, I am not ready for that. I’ll stick to birthdays! And true to form to finish off this episode I’m going recommend a few books you can inscribe for birthdays or baby showers, so number one is “Moira’s Birthday” because it’s fantastic by Robert Munsch and Michael Martchenko and I pretty much always recommend one of there books, is a great birthday one, “The Gruffalo’s Child” for a baby shower, and this one is a huge classic but “The Very Hungry Caterpillar” by Eric Carle, because you know, much like babies caterpillars eat a lot, poop a lot and become beautiful butterflies. And I never knew how much caterpillars pooped until you gave me a caterpillar this summer.
29:09 Kelly:Yeah I gave you a caterpillar and they do poop a lot.You know I had never equated them to babies before and now I will never not.
29:19 Ale: So much poop like unless you have one you can’t imagine how much poop comes out of one.
Coco: I thought you were still talking about babies.
Ale/Kelly: Also true.
Coco: And before we totally cap things off there is two that came out from Flying Eye Books this year that Kelly and I are both obsessed with which are Child of Galaxies by Blake Nuto and Freedom We Sing by Ameera Layon both of which are just stunning works of art and in true flying eye books style are gorgeously printed and layed out with beautiful keepsake quality binding, which I love. Chef’s kiss.
30:06 Kelly: Those books you pick them up off the shelf and they just feel like quality. I love those two especially, they kind give me the warm and fuzzies. Okay! Well then if you’re looking for gorgeous Rhyming Books or Keepsake books check our shownotes for an extensive list. There’s gonna be an extensive list of books this week. And Thank you to everyone who has taken the time to comment and give us suggestions, we love hearing from you all and it was fun incorporating all of our bookstagrammer friends comments into this episode.
30:54 Ale: …Yes it was…. Oh my god, that was so awkward what is wrong with me?
31:01 Kelly: YES IT WAS I LIKE PEOPLE I”M TOTALLY NOT A LIZARD PERSON
31:20 Ale: HAHAH sometimes I space out a little when I’m listening to you because you have such a soothing voice.
31:16 Corrie: She’s having cheese dreams.
31:20 Ale: We love you all all of you everybody you’re all great, thank you so much for coming out.
31:29 Coco: Ale might be having a stroke from too much cheese so with that, we’ll wrap this up.
31”49 Kelly: So with that, we will rap things up! We hope you found lots of suggestions in this episode to help you replace all that Dr. Seuss on your shelf with some fresh new material to create new memories and nostalgia for your kids or students. Be sure to hit that subscribe button on your favourite podcast service, You can find the picture bookstagang podcast on Apple, Google, Spotify and now we are on Amazon Music as well! And be sure to head over to our instagram @picturebookstagang and drop us a comment and tell us… what are you reading?
Ale/Corrie/Kelly: ba ba baaaa bada ba ba baaaaa
Jazzy music outro