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March is Music in our Schools Month, and we are celebrating with two new children’s books to share with your students!  Well – they’re not brand new (2016), but they’re new to us!  Our first selection includes a book about a hungry snake and a clever boy, and the second is a book based on a piece of music by Wynton Marsalis!  An eclectic mix, to be sure!

Early Elementary

One Day in the Eucalyptus, Eucalyptus Tree
Story by Daniel Bernstrom
Pictures by Brendan Wenzel

869002 – Hardcover – $17.99

We learned about this clever book from Josh Southard, one of the clinicians we sponsored at the Florida and Illinois Music Education Conferences this January.  This additive, rhythmic book just begs to be used in a music classroom, and we asked Josh to share his Orff lesson with you.  Enjoy!

Classroom Application
by Josh Southard – Smoky Row Elementary, Carmel, IN

There once was a boy with a whirly-twirly boy, who, unfortunately, gets gobbled up by a sneaky snake.  Down in the belly of the snake, the boy figures that if he can convince the snake that he’s still hungry, eventually he will have had enough!  And so starts our musical journey!

The idea for this book came from a group of 4th grade girls at recess playing “Poisonous Dart Frog.”  If you don’t know how this game works, a group of kids sit around in a circle, patting a beat and chanting “Poisonous Dart Frog, Poisonous Dart Frog” over and over.  One child sits in the middle.  On the outside circle, one kid has been secretly designated the poisonous dart frog.  While the kids are patting and chanting, the “frog” discreetly sticks its tongue out at others in the circle.  Once the tongue has been stuck out at you, you fall backwards.  The person in the middle must guess and call out who the frog is before the circle has fallen backwards.  Back to music class:

Start by having the students walk around the room while the teacher chants a funny ‘snake’ rhyme

  I see a snake a-hiding in the eucalyptus tree,

 Sneaky snake, sneaky snake, you can’t catch me!

One student, who has been secretly chosen, is the snake and tags another child on “me!”  That child then goes to the barred instruments and improvises the text of the poem in G pentatonic.  This continues until all children are out and improvising!  The next step is to have the children compose a melody to the rhyme now that they’ve had a lot of opportunities to play with it.

As the teacher reads the book, after every “Eucalyptus, Eucalyptus Tree,” students play their composed melody.

Now for the activity to play.  11 children are the boy and animals and are walking around the room as before.   One is secretly the snake.   A broken G bordun plays and the teacher begins to read the book. When the reader reaches “one day in the eucalyptus, eucalyptus tree,” the snake tags one student who is then “eaten” and returns to the barred instruments.  After that moment in the book, all the other students play their composed melody.  Continue until all are eaten and it’s just the snake.  As the animals leave the belly, students echo-improvise the text “out whizzed the fly,” and so on.  Finish with one more playing of the composed melody.

Josh Southard is the Music Specialist at Smoky Row Elementary School in Carmel, IN.  He has a Masters in Elementary Music with Orff Emphasis from Anderson University, and teaches Level I Orff Certification at several locations in the summer.  Josh Southard is a frequent presenter at Orff workshops and conferences around the country and has published articles in the Orff Echo and Reverberations. 


Later Elementary

Suite for Human Nature
By Diane Charlotte Lampert
Illustrated by Eric Puybaret

868871 – Hardcover – 17.99

This book caught our attention because it is based on a piece of music composed by the author and renowned musician Wynton Marsalis.  “Suite for Human Nature” was performed by the Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra in December of 2004.  Marsalis composed music to the lyrics/libretto written by Lampert, in which Mother Nature and Father Time had created the world, only to learn that the troubles of humankind were almost too much to bear, and the Four Winds come to the rescue.


This book brings the story to life with beautiful illustrations by Eric Puybaret.  The story has slightly changed, with Mother Nature being the only “adult” in the story.  She is lonely and creates her children Fear, Envy, Hate, Greed, and Fickle.  None of them is what she expected, and they cause so much trouble!  Then she talks with the Four Winds, and they inspire her to create one more child with their advice: Love.  Love gets along with all of her siblings and brings peace to the family (and the world).

A note at the end of the book reminds us that “while love cannot cure all, it can teach us to balance our capricious nature and can, most importantly, transform every one of us.”

Classroom Applications

It seems that there are no recordings available of the Marsalis “Suite for Human Nature.”  However, your students could use pitched and non-pitched instruments and create a melody and accompaniment for each character in the book.  After looking at what the artist thought the characters looked like, what would Fear, Envy, Hate, Greed, Fickle, and Love sound like?  What about the Four Winds?  This could also lead to a discussion about what behaviors each of those characters would represent, and why those characteristics don’t work well together….

This book could also be a jumping-off point for a study of other stories derived from music, such as Peter and the Wolf, Carnival of the Animals, My Favorite Things, Puff the Magic Dragon, and more!  Check out the Illustrated Songs section of our website and catalog for more recommendations.

Do You have a Book Lesson to Share? 

We get our best ideas from teachers in the field, and we are looking for guest bloggers for our next season of Children’s Books of the Month.  If you would like to share a children’s book (and your lesson for it) with us, send an email to Andrea ( with the book and your lesson idea.  Thanks in advance for sharing your expertise with our West Music Community!