About the Holiday
You’ve heard the saying “Too Many Books, Too Little Time,” right? Well, this truism has spawned not only one, but two Read a New Book Month celebrations! Both December and September have been designated as times to make special plans to search out and read new books. These can be books that are newly published or books that are new to you. And if you find yourself putting a few old favorites in the pile, that’s okay too! It’s also a great time to think about adding books to those gift lists!
The B on Your Thumb: 60 Poems to Boost Reading and Spelling
Written by Colette Hiller | Illustrated by Tor Freeman
One of the joys of books for little ones is sitting with a parent, teacher, or other caregiver and listening to the story play out with wonder, silliness, sadness, and a whole world of feelings. Hearing the words and sentences, it all makes sense. But when kids start reading, start really looking at the words, well…all of those vowel combinations, silent letters, words that sound the same but look completely different, words that look completely different but sound the same… it can get confusing!
And that’s where Colette Hiller and Tor Freeman’s book of poetry comes in handy. Sixty poems covering the topics of spelling and pronunciation are broken out into four categories—Sounds, Silent Letters and Secrets, Spellings, and Words that Sound the Same—that make understanding the written English language easier and more fun to learn. With this ditty, Hiller welcomes kids in to this delightful book: “Some letters sound as they are meant to. / Other letters change. / They sometimes make surprising noises. / English can be strange!”
One of the first sounds a baby hears may be a gentle “sh.” Encountering this consonant combination on the page, though, can seem daunting. Ssss and Huh? Hiller gives a hand in pronouncing it though, with a little intro to the two letters on their own and then… “S and H go sh, / that is what they do. / The sh that’s in your shoulder, the sh that’s in your shoe.” She then goes on to add a few more lines with familiar “sh” words that will make kids “shout!”
With clever versus that will bring on many giggles and even more “Ah-ha” moments, Hiller and Freeman introduces kids to the sounds that vowel combinations “o-u,” “o-i,” “a-i,” “o-a,” “e-e,” and “o-o” make with a sad U that’s just struck “out,” and a cheering crowd that invites them to join in chanting “oggy, oggy, oggy, oi, oi,oi!” There’s also a train filled with rain, a goat in love with a toad, a treed cheetah, and of course the man in the moon.
Hiller doesn’t forget about those perfectly matched consonant couples either. She relates the story of how Q and U fell in love in a queue; goes shopping with Mrs. Owl for a new gown and crown; and takes on that “bossy E” who always takes over when together with A. There are many more poems about letter combinations in this section as well, and each one is loaded with examples of words that incorporate those letters.
In the chapter Silent Letters and Secrets, Hiller engages readers in the finer arts of the silent B in “doubt” and “thumb.” In the book’s title poem, she says, “Look, there’s a B / right there on your thumb, / but of course you shouldn’t mind… / For the B that you see / right there on your thumb / is not the stinging kind!” Silent K gets two poems of its own and silent W comes knocking in two more poems. She investigates that mysterious “h” in where, what, why, and when as well as the equally mysterious pair “g-h” in words like night and sight. Kids will also enjoy finding hidden words lurking in longer words.
Now, reading may be one thing, but spelling? At times that seems like something all together different. In the chapter Spellings, Hiller teaches kids some tricks of the trade. In her poem “Magical E,” “Magical E / has magical might. / See how she turns / a kit to a kite…. / Abracadabra: / a cap is a cape! / She hops on a tub. / Now the tub is a tube. / Abracadabra… / A dud is a dude!” Readers discover rhymes that make it easier to remember unusual spellings in words such as “separate, important, and rhyme as well as that old favorite “I before E except after C” that includes a twist.
Colette Hiller finishes up with Words that Sound the Same. In “Two, Too, and To,” she explains the difference in those three little words that often trip us up and gives tips on remembering them. “Witch” and “which,” “here” and “here,” “whole” and “hole,” and “whether” and “weather” are also treated to poems of their own.
In each poem, the subject letters are called out in a bright color that allows kids to make the connection between the combinations of letters and how they contribute to the structure of a word visually and in sound. Following the poems, Hiller includes detailed tips and fun exercises and activities that adults and kids can do together to enhance learning from poem to poem and when reading classroom assignments and books and other materials at home.
Colette Hiller nimbly navigates the dual desires to teach and entertain with her jaunty rhymes that are ingenious, witty, and clear examples of how words sound and are pronounced. When shared with children reading along, the poems reinforce how each word looks with their sometimes-confusing mix of letters. When education is this humorous and joyful, kids will beg to read “just one more” which, of course, means better literacy, success in school, and opportunities in the future.
Accompanying each poem are Tor Freeman’s whimsical and hilarious illustrations of adorable letters interacting with people taking showers, fleeing from a wily cheetah, waiting in a queue, and even flying a car in outer space. There are also chimpanzees eating cheese sandwiches, a cat doing calisthenics, and an ant learning a lesson in importance. And, of course, there are letters, letters, letters rowing a boat, deigning to give audience to a princess, dining in a haunted castle, and cavorting from page to page and poem to poem.
A rousing collection of poems that kids will love on their own and as inspirational learning tools in language arts lessons, The B on Your Thumb is highly recommended for homeschoolers and home bookshelves and a must for classroom and public library collections.
Ages 3 – 8 and up
Frances Lincoln Children’s Books, 2020 | ISBN 978-0711254602
You can download a Teacher’s Guide with pre- and post-reading discussion questions, a writing activity and a word play activity on the Quarto Knows website.
Discover more about Colette Hiller and her books on her website.
To learn more about Tor Freeman, her books, and her art on her website.
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When you buy a new book, you need new book bling to go with it! Here’s a printable book plate and bookmark, plus a want-to-read list to help you choose your next new book to buy!
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