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Category Archives: Rhymes and Repetition

Rhymes and Repetition are great for children. They learn through them. I know this. This doesn’t mean that sometimes reading books with an abundance of rhyme and repetition doesn’t sometimes tire the reader (i.e. me).

Fictional Books

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One of my favorite Wikipedia lists is a list of fictional books,* by which, as they clarify at the beginning, they mean: “A fictional book is a non-existent book created specifically for (i.e. within) a work of fiction. This is not a list of works of fiction (i.e., actual novels, mysteries etc), but rather imaginary books that do not actually exist.” I’m going to add Groffle the Awful Waffle by Leslie Knope to it (no one looks good screen captured, sorry!). Are there other fictional children’s books that you know of? I like that the rhymes in Groffle the Awful Waffle sound like a book that already exists. Wait maybe it does, anyone know? I would google this but I am too busy reading lists of books that don’t exist.

*That’s right, I have favorite wikipedia lists. How people put things together and what lists exist fascinates me. Plus, I just really love fictional books. Call me names if you will. Do you have favorite wikipedia lists?

How much repetition gets to people and how much children’s books mean to their parents

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I’ve mentioned repetition before, repeatedly, but I was impressed to see at how many of the comments below Tracy Moore’s funny piece, “You’re So  Not Almost Ready For a Baby, Even If You Think You Are” are about the books parents mind, and don’t mind, reading over and over again and over and over again.

Onomatopoeias historically and culturally (part one) or zoom zoom neigh neigh yucky yucky

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My daughter took a great children’s music class that also turned out to be instructional for me, since I learned to squeak and zoom in a way I never would have on my own. They even gave us a book that has nothing but noises in it. My daughter will ask to read “Zoom zoom” (Zoom Buggy! written by Claire Clark and illustrated by Jay Jung, helps to have an alliterative name when you are writing about onomatopoeias) and is pretty good at reading it to herself. Add to the joys and trials of parenthood, the need to learn how to make animal, car, and other noises (if you didn’t already know how to). Some parents pride themselves on their noise skills, while some of us proudly watch as our children outstrip us in the noise-making arena. Onomatopoeic sounds seem to be especially crucial and popular among the under three set. In the beginning, they’ll often call animals by the noises they make rather than their actual names  (although my daughter definitely said “dog” first, perhaps because dogs make way too many noises in English, see Sandra Boynton’s Doggies, a counting and barking book which goes through a lot of dog noises, yap yap arf arf just to entice you). All this reading of sound words makes me think about their spelling (this can of course be interesting with more grown up sound words too, like “whoo” which has recently received a thorough and fun treatment and is different from “woo,” who knew?). Some of my questions: why would one ever spell yucky the way it is spelled on this Oscar the Grouch book? (Yucchy?!) Should I pronounce it differently? The books seems to be referring to things that are “yucky” so why complicate this word? Is Sesame Street too cool for yucky? Am I not cool enough to know what is going on with the spelling of yucky?  You are questioning the tentative definition of “yucky” as onomatopoetic (did I read your mind)? It’s classified as “imitative” by the OED like other onomatopoeias, but I’m open to other suggestions, what do you think? Then there is “neigh.” Because every onomatopoeia should be written with a silent “gh” at the end, right? I look forward to teaching my daughter about English spelling. According to the OED, before the 17th century it was sometimes written “Ne” (a1522   G. Douglas tr. Virgil Aeneid (1960) xi. x. 24   “He sprentis furth, and full provd walxis he, Heich strekand vp his hed with mony a ne.”). This makes sense to me (I am not referring this example in particular but to the older spelling of “neigh”). What happened, modern English? Also, why do onomatopoeias almost always require repetition? Doesn’t matter if they are referring to machine or beast, it’s choo choo, moo moo, vroom vroom, meow meow (or in Italian miao miao, the joys of onomatopoeias in other languages deserves its own post). Who has it out for me, and why? I have more questions, but I will start with these, if you have answers please share.

But seriously, no more monkeys jumping on the bed

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I’m taking a break this Monday from talking about Curious George so that I don’t depress you too much. One of my daughter’s all time favorite books, song, things in general is No More Monkeys Jumping on the Bed. Here is a video of her listening to the song, reading the book (illustrated by Tina Freeman) to herself, and then running off in search of a monkey missing from her monkey collection. And, yes, she lined them up that way. There are coordinated movements that go with the book (which has great illustrations and varies the male/female pronouns, given the basic text it does its best to make it interesting) and song. We have a dance that involves throwing her monkeys that accompanies the song (we also have multiple versions of the song). I’ll admit that I have done as much as possible to make more exciting for myself the reading of this book. Why? Because she loves it and it is about the most monotonous thing you will ever read, a statement I make after having read a huge number of incredibly monotonous children’s books that pride themselves on intense repetition. The book starts “Ten little monkeys, jumping on the bed, one fell off and bumped his head, Mama called a doctor and the doctor said, ‘No more monkeys jumping on the bed.’” I just typed that from memory in about a second, not because I am that good at memorizing things or typing, but because it is that ingrained into me. I know it better than my name (I say my full name less often then I read this book). Guess how it continues? “Nine little. . . ” I’ll stop there. I actually mind it less and less, the more we add to it (the acting out of the monkeys jumping with the stuffed animals, my sign for “calling” gets more complex every time, it’s progressed back in time from cell to landline to rotary to pay phone, next I’ll be working on speaking to an operator and getting her to place my call). I wonder if I should have tried this in my class this semester, the majority of my students hated Robbe-Grillet’s Jealousy — maybe it would have been better if the repetition in that book were accentuated with hand movements, miming, a song, and acting out parts of it with stuffed animals? Are there any books your kids make you read to them that you find a little dull and what do you do to make it better for yourself? Are there books full of repetition that you remember loving as a child? Why do you think the monkeys are so damn stupid that they  keep falling off the bed? Especially that last one, how hard is it to jump on a bed without falling off when you are by yourself? Why don’t they all just jump on the floor? Why doesn’t the Mom buy them a trampoline? What is wrong with these monkeys?

4 Pups and a Worm!

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Having a child brings so much joy into one’s life. It also brings a lot of music you had forgotten about, hadn’t known about, or had hoped to forget about. I don’t want to mention a bunch of lyrics that will get in your head, because I know how hard they are to get out once they are in (I may need a surgical procedure). Two words: Sesame Street. Certain books’ rhymes and rhythms similarly get into one’s head. Eric Seltzer’s “4 Pups and a Worm” is written like an advertisement, a catchy one. I find myself thinking “When you cannot tie your tie — no matter how you try. . . when your chopper will not fly— and you feel you want to cry. . . [ . . .] call 4 pups and a worm. They tie. They fly.” while I am cleaning, trying to prepare class, talking to friends, and other activities. When I have finally had enough distance from the reading experience that my brain can be completely occupied by other things, my daughter makes me read it to her again, which I enjoy, I just fear the aftermath.

Say what? From Fox in Socks

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Rhymes sometimes result in pictures or sayings that I find more confusing (and occasionally disturbing) than fun. Why does Luke Luck have a strange moustache? What is up with moustaches in children’s books more generally? Why does Luke Luck like taking licks in the lake duck likes? What relationship do Luke Luck and the duck have? Why are their eyes closed? Is Luke Luck lucky? What do they do when they aren’t taking licks? Or is that all they do? Does this lake in particular have some special qualities besides the regular hydrating ones? Please stare at this picture for five minutes and let me know if you have any answers.

The Master of Rhyme and Repetition

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Dr. Seuss is one of the best-known authors of children’s books; his works are silly, fun, and weird. The Cat in the Hat is fantastic. One of my sisters claims that Fox in Socks was one of her favorites as a child. I fear it might be my daughter’s as well. In Fox in Socks a fox (in socks) tortures Mr. Knox with wordplay. The problem with a book based on torturing wordplay that one READS ALOUD is your child is basically forcing you to torture yourself. There are different ways of dealing with this. I try to read as quickly as possible, both because I tend to mess up if I don’t and also because it speeds up the torture process. My husband reads as slowly as possible, in an unusually (for him) monotonous tone, hoping perhaps that our daughter will give up and let him stop. Either way, I inwardly cheer when Mr. Knox (spoiler alert) shoves the aggressive Fox in Socks into a bottle and he becomes “a tweetle beetle noodle poodle bottled paddled muddled duddled fuddled wuddled fox in sox” and the book ends. Yes, that was a direct quote. Try saying it ten times fast after four hours of sleep.