Hot cocoa and whipped cream. Cookies and milk. Peanut butter and jelly. Some things in life are better when perfectly paired—including books. Stories told through text or audible format are commendable on their own merit, yet given that listening comprehension begins around 12 months and continues developing past sixth grade, while reading comprehension begins around kindergarten or first grade, paired reading should be considered a beneficial component of a child’s literary experience. In addition, research shows that a child’s ability to read and write is linked to his or her listening skills: comprehending the same text in both audible and written format.
From the hiss of a locomotive to mariachis to the reading of Zen poetry, the old favorites or new friends that follow are sure to be enjoyed by another perfect pair—the young and the young at heart.
Bateman , Donna M. Deep in the Swamp. 1 CD. 17.12 min. Live Oak Media. 2014. $19.95. ISBN 9781430114598.
Gr 2-4 –The Okefenokee Swamp sets the backdrop for a clever retake on a familiar children’s story, “Over in the Meadow.” The swamp is home to a wide array of animals including crayfish, blue herons, flame birds, and river otters. The list of topic discussions are plentiful: ecosystems, flora and fauna, counting, and when paired with the audio, singing. Tom Chapin’s narration and musical talents bring to life the scurrying, splashing, trilling, and soaring world of bog life. A brief overview of the Okefenokee Swamp and its inhabitants are included.
Cox, Judy. Cinco de Mouse-O! 1 CD. 7 min. Dreamscape. 2015. $14.99. ISBN 9781633799356.
PreS-Gr 3 –When Mouse is awakened on the fifth of May by the smells of a Mexican fiesta, he follows his nose to the “beany, cheesy, ricey” source. Cat follows his nose, too—stalking Mouse. Upon arrival at the city park, Mouse is rewarded with the sights and sounds of Cinco de Mayo: sombreros, serapes, guitarróns, tamales, piñata, and mariachis. Readers are also rewarded with a succinct, yet lively taste of this festival beautifully illustrated and brought to life with snippets of Spanish language, music, and “fantástico!” narration by Kirby Heyborne.
Cronin, Doreen. Dooby Dooby Moo. 1 CD. 13 min. Weston Woods. 2011. $12.95. ISBN 9780545042796.
PreS-Gr 2 –One morning while reading Farmer Brown’s newspaper, Duck sees an ad: Talent show at the County Fair.This gives Duck an idea. He is certain that with a little practice, his farmyard friends can sing their way into winning first prize—a slightly used trampoline. When the big day arrives, Farmer Brown, suspecting the animals will get into mischief if left unattended at home, decides to bring them to the fair. No sooner does he leave the parking lot, when his worries are proven correct. Lewin’s illustrations speak volumes and no one is better at “Fa la baa,” “Whacka whacka quack,” or “Dooby dooby moo-ing” than narrator Randy Travis. Together they create a first prize–winning combination.
De La PeÑa , Matt. Last Stop on Market Street. 1 CD. 7 min. Recorded Books. 2015. $15.75. ISBN 9781490683720.
K-Gr 2 –It’s Sunday and CJ skips down the church steps followed by Nana. No sooner do they reach the bus stop when it begins to rain. This makes CJ cranky and full of questions during their ride: why does it have to rain; why can’t they own a car; why is that man blind. Gentle, wise Nana uses the opportunities that present themselves during their journey to Market Street to teach CJ that interacting and helping others make life fuller, especially as beautifully depicted on the final page. The combination of Christian Robinson’s award-winning illustrations, a subtle yet powerful story line, and audio may cultivate pay-it-forward conversations even among the youngest readers.
DiCamillo , Kate & Alison McGhee. Bink & Gollie: Two for One. 1 CD. 13 min. Weston Woods. 2014. $12.97. ISBN 9780545570367.
PreS-Gr 3 –The State Fair has come to town and Bink and Gollie embark on a full day of adventures, with unexpected and hilarious results. As ever, these two are always rooting for each other. And at day’s end, readers are reminded that life is good, despite its rought spots, when shared with your best friend. Tony Fucile’s lively colored illustrations pop, and the soundtrack with its circus music, crowds, and 4-H contestants solidly links itself to the story line, especially with the wordless pages. Kate Micucci and Riki Lindhome perfectly capture Bink’s spunkiness and Gollie’s droll hesitancy, respectively.
Elvgren, Jennifer. The Whispering Town. 1 CD. 9 min. Dreamscape. 2015. $14.99. ISBN 9781633799318.
PreS-Gr 3 –In Nazi-occupied Denmark, in 1943, a small Danish village collaborates to aid a Jewish family’s flight to freedom. “New friends” have arrived at Anett’s house and while they wait patiently in the cellar for a clear moonlit night to catch a ferry to Sweden, Anett visits local businesses for additional rations for them. Tension builds as suspicious Nazi soldiers comb the streets. The clever collaboration between a small child and a town save lives. Old-time radio effects layered with the dark, sparse illustrations bring this moment of Holocaust history to life.
Emberley, Rebecca. The Red Hen. 1 CD. 4 min. Weston Woods. 2014. $12.95. ISBN 9780545447607.
PreS-2 –In this reimagining of “The Little Red Hen,” our heroine decides to bake a cake. Before each step in the baking process, Red Hen asks her friends for help. “Not I,” is the universal reply—until it’s time to eat! The winning combination of vivid somewhat abstract artwork that practically pops off the page and Walter Mays’s Julia Child–esque narration is certain to inspire smiles. A recipe for baking Red Hen’s cake is included, allowing children and adults another situation for spending time together.
Floca, Brian. Locomotive. 1 CD. 38 min. Dreamscape. 2014. $9.99. ISBN 9781629238463.
K-Gr 3 –Prior to May 10, 1869, travel across the United States was slow, expensive, and primarily limited to wagons and boats. The completion of the Transcontinental Railroad forever changed the way Americans travel. Locomotive follows a family as they journey west to San Francisco. Background historical highlights and additional sketches and maps provide readers information regarding the struggles and successes during the building and completion process. Beautifully detailed illustrations afford more than a glimpse into the arduous journey. Eric Dove’s heartwarming, gentle mountain man vocals are the golden spike linking audio to text. History has never been so interesting.
Muth, Jon J. Zen Shorts. 1 CD. 14 min. Scholastic Audio. 2010. $16.86. ISBN 9780545227605.
K-Gr 4 –Stillwater sets out to retrieve his umbrella, which had been windswept downhill and deposited in his neighbor’s backyard. Thus begins the friendship between a zen-minded giant panda with siblings Michael, Addy, and Karl. During the course of their everyday conversations, Stillwater finds opportunities to share the wisdom of Zen. The lushly illustrated book blends beautifully with David Pittu’s warm and gentle narration, that resonates with the wisdom and peace of the stories he tells. It’s never too early to introduce poetry to young minds, especially those that subtly instill positive character-building traits.
Reynolds, Peter H. Sky Color. 1 CD. 5 min. Weston Woods. 2014. $12.95. ISBN 9780545523301.
PreS-Gr 4 –Marisol, an “artist through and through,” is very excited to participate with her class in painting a mural for the library. Marisol assigns herself the task of painting the sky, only to discover there is no blue paint. She ponders this dilemma while inadvertently observing the sky’s transition from sunshine to twilight to gray dawn. Then she finds her answer! The audio leans towards depending on the book, yet the background shuffles, bells, and falling rain accompanied by the perfect tempo of music adds another colorful layer to Reynolds’s soft water-colored illustrations and inspiring story line. A gentle nudge for the aspiring artist in all of us.
Tonatiuh, Duncan. Funny Bones: Posada and His Day of the Dead Calaveras. 1 CD. 24 min. Dreamscape. 2016. $14.99. ISBN 9781520011387.
Gr 3-6 –A picture is worth a 1,000 words accurately describes the work of Mexican artist Jose Guadalupe Posada whose is commonly associated with the Day of the Dead calaveras (skeleton)images. Posada began his profession as a political cartoonist, transitioning to illustrating books and poems. Many of his freestyle calavera drawings depict the cultural and historical time period, and Tonatiuh suggests possible symbolic interpretations of Posada’s portrayal of this “intangible cultural heritage of humanity.” Narrator Armando Duran’s command of the English and Spanish vocabulary is beautifully seamless. Pairing the art with Duran’s audio links the best of both worlds in a tribute to both the festival Día de los muertos and the lesser known life and legacy of the artist whose renderings are synonymous with the holiday.
Verde, Susan. The Museum. 1 CD. 4 min. Dreamscape. 2014 $14.99. ISBN 9781633792326.
K-2 –As a young girl tours an art museum, she notices an unexpected string of feelings begin to bubble inside that she “cannot stifle.” Each work of art ignites a reaction: tippy-toes, twirly-whirly, fright then appetite, and wonder about the whos and whys. When she is presented with an empty canvas, it inspires her to use her mind’s eye to create the greatest picture of all. The collaboration of a delightful story, the colorful recreated masterpieces, and the soundtrack are sure to spark plenty of conversations, inspire a personal work of art, and perhaps encourage a visit a local art museum.