Look and listen: Tapes and CDs with books By Naomi Leithold

Grocery store. Bank. Cleaners. Take son to art class. Pick up photos. This might seem like a short “to do” list for the average family but running from place to place in stop-and-go traffic can be exhausting. Add young children to the equation and it can become downright daunting. For many children, listening to a storyteller on tape is enough to keep them entertained. But others need more than just a voice coming from the speakers. For them, recordings with books are bound to do the trick. Here are my recommendations for a few book/tape combinations that are long enough to keep them engaged between stops, but short enough to end before you pull into the next parking lot.

SHEILA RAE, THE BRAVE, by Kevin Henkes, read by Laura Hamilton, music by Chris Kubie, Live Oak Media, 2002, $16.95 for paperback with audiocassette, $18.95 for paperback with CD, $25.95 for hard cover with audiocassette, 8 minutes; ages 4-8.

It's hard not to love adorable Sheila Rae, a mouse who is full of self-confidence. Like her little sister, Louise, listeners will be in awe of her ability to tackle any situation. This holds true until she gets lost taking a new route home from school and the tables are turned. Louise, who has been quietly lurking in the shadows (young children will have fun finding Louise's hiding place on each page), knows how to get home and leads the way with a new sense of self-confidence. This uplifting story ends with Louise announcing that they are both brave.

The audio portion, along with the sweet, emotive illustrations and Henkes' clever, child-friendly writing, brings this story to life. The pictures and text are ingeniously augmented by sound effects. I found it especially charming when I heard Sheila Rae kiss the spider pictured on the first page. Hamilton does a wonderful job giving the characters youthful voices and fully expressing the tale's strong emotions. Background music adds the finishing touches to this charming story that effectively communicates the messages of facing fearful situations head on, that it's OK to be afraid, that siblings can help each other and that even the meek can become the brave.

Shelia Rae, the Brave can be purchased by calling (800) 788-1121 or at (click on picture book readalongs and then search under the author's name).

CAROLINA'S GIFT, by Katacha Díaz, illustrated by Gredna Landolt, narrated by Heather Tarpinian, Trudy Corp., 2002, $19.95 for hard cover with audiocassette, 6 minutes; ages 5-9.

This story, part of Soundprints' Friends around the World Collection, takes youngsters to Peru. There they learn, through the life of a fictional child, about the traditions and cultures of the country. To ensure authenticity, the story was created by a native-born author and illustrator.

This sweet tale follows Carolina and her mother to the Sunday market to find a gift for Abuelita's (Grandmother's) birthday. As they walk through the market, its sights and sounds are brought to life. Throughout the book, Landolt's brightly colored illustrations depict the lush colors of the animals and vegetation and the rainbow hues of the hand-woven clothing. The background sounds of animals, vendors hawking wares and musicians playing Andean music will easily transport listeners from their car seats to the Sunday market.

Young children's interests will be peaked as they wonder what Carolina finally decides to buy for Abuelita. Nothing seems to be just right, until she finds a walking stick that will enable Abuelita to accompany them on their next trip. This family friendly recording also includes a glossary of some commonly used Spanish words and provides information about Peru and the Sunday market. Carolina's Gift can be purchased at major bookstores, by calling (800) 577-2413 or online at

MAMA DON'T ALLOW, by Thacher Hurd, narration and musical performance by Tom Chapin, Live Oak Media, 2001, $16.95 for paperback with audiocassette, $18.95 for paperback with CD, 11 minutes; ages 4-8.

This winner of the 2001 Grammy Award for Best Spoken Word Album for Children is sure to charm children and adults alike. Parents will relate to the Mama, who isn't thrilled with the saxophone Miles got as a birthday present. When she can no longer tolerate the noise, she asks him to play outside, where he meets other musicians and they form a band. When the town banishes them to the swamp, they meet an alligators, who asks them to play at the gators' ball, but music isn't the only thing on the reptiles' minds. As the gators get ready to make supper out of the band, the musicians play music to lull them asleep.

This adorable story comes alive with Chapin's musical and narrative talents. He makes the words hop right off the page with his deep, inviting voice, heartfelt expression and clever characterizations. Children are sure to be squirming in their seats, keeping time to the energetic jazz music. This fun-filled tale is bound to make its way onto your child's list of favorites.

Mama Don't Allow can be purchased by calling (800) 788-1121 or online at (click on picture book readalongs and then search under the author's name).




Naomi Leithold is an award-winning storyteller and early childhood educator who lives in Skokie with her two boys, 12 and 15. Her Web site,, features story starters and other resources for young storytellers.



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