Book to Boogie is a monthly series that pairs picture books with dance and movement activities for preschool story time. The series is curated by Kerry Aradhya of Picture Books & Pirouettes and written by a different guest writer each month. We hope that children’s librarians, as well as classroom teachers and dance educators, will find these activities useful and fun!

By Jill Randall

Jonathan and His Mommy, by Irene Smalls and Michael Hays, is a sweet and comforting story of a mother and her young son moving throughout their neighborhood on foot one day. With the two main characters side by side — moving together — the tone of the book is gentle and joyful. From a dance perspective, the text articulates 11 playful and varied ways to move, such as giant steps, crisscrossing steps, and slow-motion steps.

Cover_JonathanTo Warm Up Your Group: Follow the Leader

Since Jonathan and His Mommy contains a variety of movements, and involves dancing with a partner, ask the group to stand up and spread out. Everyone can stay in the small groups in which they came. (These may be parent/child, caregiver/child, or parent or caregiver with multiple children). You can begin as the leader of the warm-up and then ask for participants’ ideas.

Put on some fun music to set the tone, such as “Three Little Birds” (Ziggy Marley version).

Lead the group in some simple ideas:

  1. Arm reaches
  2. Arm circles
  3. Head nods
  4. Shoulder shrugs
  5. Leg kicks
  6. Knee lifts
  7. Rising high onto the balls of the feet and then crouching low
  8. Tilts side to side

Then, encourage the group to share more ideas, especially to transition into moving around the room:

  1. How can we walk around the space?
  2. What’s another way to walk?
  3. How about a jump?
  4. How else can we move around the room?

The Main Event: Jonathan and His Mommy

Ask the group to sit down again as you read the book. Read it in its entirety.

Next, ask the group to stand up again in their small groups. You will become the narrator as the groups dance the whole story. Put on some music. Bobby McFerrin’s music is a great pairing for the energy and tone of the book. Options include:

  • “A-Train”
  • “I Feel Good”
  • “Circlesong 7”

Start at the very beginning of the book. Read a page and then “side coach” to give the group a few seconds to explore each kind of movement. For example, I might say, “Okay, Jonathan and his mommy are zigzagging. Their bodies go this way and that. Can you show me this? Ooh…I see Zachary and his nanny moving and zipping side to side. I see another family holding hands and gently pulling each other side to side….Let’s try a variety of zigzagging moves….”

Continue reading the book and offering movement ideas for each of the 11 actions.

If you are a music-savvy person, you could make a playlist with 11 songs, so that you can switch to a different song with each turn of the page. The music variance will inspire changes in the movement in terms of tempo and quality.

For the last page of the book — “And we take Jonathan-and-Mommy steps, Jonathan-and-Mommy steps, and walk our way home” — encourage each small group to pick out one way that they like to move together. Each group in the room will end up doing something different.

You can end the movement exploration by having everyone sit down again. Ask them to share their favorite ways of moving from the story.

Further Explorations

From this one book, numerous themes arise for further reading and more dance explorations.

To explore lines and pathways:

  • Around the World: A Follow-the-Trail Book by Katie Haworth and Craig Shuttlewood
  • Little Green by Keith Baker
  • Lines That Wiggle by Candace Whitman and Steve Wilson

To explore parent/child relationships:

  • My Mama Had a Dancing Heart by Libba Moore Gray and Raul Colon
  • Kitchen Dance by Maurie J. Manning
  • Flip, Flap, Fly! by Phyllis Root and David Walker

To explore going on a walk:

  • I Went Walking by Sue Williams and Julie Vivas
  • A Good Night Walk by Elisha Cooper
  • Rosie’s Walk by Pat Hutchins

jillhJill Homan Randall is passionate about the intersection of language and movement. She is the Artistic Director of Shawl-Anderson Dance Center in Berkeley, California, and has been a teaching artist for over 18 years. Jill maintains the blog Dancing Words, about children’s books on dance and books that inspire dancing. Her article “What Makes a Good Book about Dance?” was published in the January/February 2013 issue of The Horn Book Magazine. Jill also has a

chapter on the intersection of language and movement in preschool and kindergarten dance classes in the book Moving Ideas: Multimodality and Embodied Learning in Communities and Schools. Jill’s latest publication is Dance Education Essentials: 55 Objects and Ideas for New Preschool-12th Grade Teaching Artists.

Pin It