Abiyoyo, is a retelling of a South African Folk tale by Pete Seeger, and even without the beautiful paintings by Michael Hays, it is a gripping and exciting story for little ones. The story is funny, scary, and has a happy ending. The language is memorable, as are the characters, and the simple and original phrasing makes it a snap for children to try out themselves.
Pretend reading can manifest itself in so many ways, from a two-year-old flipping the pages of a book to a four-year-old repeating memorized phrases to a five-year-old starting to use features of the text to begin to decode. Abiyoyo is a book I have used successfully with threes and up, and when the book is left for browsing after storytime, it is constantly in someone's hands, with the story being retold. Seeger uses memorable phrases, and keeps the text short and sweet. Words like "ostracized" and "slobbery" and "foolish" become part of the retellings as children connect those words with images on the page. The paintings are simple but set the tone for the book, and children are able to remember what is happening when because of the distinction between each page spread.
Another feature that makes this book exceptional, in my mind, is the music that is embedded. Children learn a lot about literacy through being read to and exploring books independently, seeing text and understanding that there is a link between written and spoken word. Symbols are an abstract, but to assist in bridging the abstract and the concrete, musical symbols are written in this book when the characters sing. So children are able to make a connection between symbols and when it is time to read or sing. And the song? Impossible to forget!
This is a book that allows children to explore literature through pretend reading, and extend those explorations through music and play. I myself have been Abiyoyo, chasing the villagers! And to hear four-year-olds yell, "Grab your most precious possessions and run, RUN!" while scrambling across a playground cannot be a bad literature extension. I rarely create extensions from the best books because the good ones do it for you.
I mentioned my love of Abiyoyo a year ago when I gave a copy away - and I'll likely mention it again. It is a book that everyone should have in their home or school library, and if you don't head down to your local library and see how wonderful it is.
I'm hoping that I'll be sharing books and ideas about literacy on a regular basis. I'm not one for worksheets or craft projects or Baby Einstein, so I hope I'll be able to share information about how children learn about reading and writing, right within the flow of early childhood, not with outside pressure.