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Saturday, January 22, 2011

You Read to Me, I'll Read to You, adapted by Mary Ann Hoberman and illustrated by Michael Emberley. Little Brown, Hachette, 2010. $19.99 ages 3 and up

"It's time for my supper.                            
I'm ready to eat.
There's hay in the barn
So I'm in for a treat.
But who's in my manger?
Have I got  a guest?
That lazy old farm dog
Is taking a rest."

I have a picture in my head, and on my computer, of Erin and Victoria cuddled up together in the Still Room at Bouchards reading the first of the wonderful 'You Read to Me' books! Victoria had a head filled with language and stories and was just beginning to put it all together to start reading on her own. They sat and looked at the illustrations, talked about the text and how it was meant to be read by both of them, pondered the words, loved the rhymes and just started reading. What a lovely way to spend an afternoon!

Since that time, I have anticipated each new addition to the series; this one being the fifth. I am never disappointed in the appeal, the quality and the great response when shared in classrooms with children and teachers. There are thirteen fables here and as in other books from this collection, they are meant to be read by two readers. There is a back and forth, and each ends with both readers voicing the moral.

"You take one voice,
I, the other;
Then we read
To one another.
Till we reach
The fable's moral,
Then we make
Our voices choral."

The writing is perfect for youngsters navigating the road to reading. Lots of repetition and rhyme make it a sure hit with readers of all ages, but early readers will find great comfort in knowing what to expect from the text. Michael Emberley's wondrous illustrations give kids so much to hang on to as they try their hand at getting it right. I love the stork and peacock on the title page, showing the actors and their costumes as they prepare their performance. Flip to the table of contents and we are observers of the back-stage work being done by stage hands, builders, wardrobe designers and painters. Of this, Michael Emberley says:

"In the end there is far more work behind a simple book of poems based on Aesop fables than you might think it warrants. Creating an entire production of actors, costumes, sets, performances, and dances, (as well as a bit of singing)... But it’s always a pleasure to come up with something you hope will match the skill and wit of the words -the “script” - you have been entrusted to “perform”. And it’s the respect and trust given me by Mary Ann, that I hope shows in every brush stroke."

Mary Ann Hoberman works endlessly to get the right book into the hands of the right child. She knows about readers, about language and she has the perfect formula for inviting children into the world of reading and poetry. With books like this, we can be sure that we are paving the way to a lifetime of enjoyment in the pages of a book...and isn't that what learning and literacy are all about?

I have used her previous books in poetry workshops; and each time, a group of children find voice in the poems she has created. We used the fairy tales edition very successfully in a performance assembly with grade four students at Mary Montgomery School....the performances were perfect, the audience entertained and the performers proud and beaming.
Wouldn't any developing reader love to have a copy of each of the five books on their own library shelf?

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