Whistle for Willie…Building Self-Esteem

Perfect Picture Book Friday…I missed a couple of weeks while I was out of town…I’m happy to be back joining Susanna Leonard Hill’s fantastic group of picture book writers, illustrators, librarians and others who contribute a picture book review.

whistle for willie.www.viviankirkfield.wordpress.com

Whistle for Willie

Written and illustrated by Ezra Jack Keats

Publisher: The Viking Press (1964) Puffin Press has a newer 1977 edition

Ages: 4 and up


Self-esteem, parental support, growing up, coping with failure


Little Peter wants to learn how to whistle so he can call his dog, Willie. He keeps trying until, one day, he can do it. His parents support him and encourage him throughout it all.

Why do I like this book:

Classic Ezra Jack Keats…need I say more?

The bold illustrations captivate…the simple text brings home the message of ‘if at first you don’t succeed, try, try again’. Every child needs to hear this story at least once…and I guarantee every child will want to hear it again and again.


Related Activities:

Kids love making music, whether they are whistling, beating on a drum or shaking maracas. There are many instruments that you can help your child craft…and try these water glass chimes…the tones created by the different glasses will amaze everyone.

Water Chimes


Illustration and instructions courtesy http://www.creativekidsathome.com/activities/activity_6.html

You will need:

8 glasses


  • Line up eight glasses of about the same size and shape.
  • Fill the first glass about 1/8th full of water for the high note, the second glass should be 1/4 full, the third glass should be 3/8ths full for the next note, and so on.
  • Each glass should sound like a note on the music scale (do, re, mi, fa, sol, la, ti, do). You may need to tune your music scale (add or remove water with teaspoon) until each note rings true.
  • Have the children use a metal teaspoon to gently tap out the scale and any other melodies they know (Mary had a Little lamb, Twinkle Twinkle).

Hints for Water Chimes

  • Don’t use expensive crystal glasses to make water chimes.
  • Add a bit a food coloring to help children identify which glass is which sound.
  • Changing the amount of water will change the musical note. The amount of water in the glass changes the pitch of the sound wave.

Here are a few more sites that provide music craft-making instructions.







Lesson plans for Whistle for Willie and other sites with additional activities:




Show Me How Build Your Child's Self-Esteem, Positive Parental Participation

If you are looking for a great resource that will give you 100’s of picture book summaries, easy matching crafts (even a couple of musical instrument projects) and healthful child-friendly cooking activities, purchase a copy on Amazon of Show Me How! Build Your Child’s Self-Esteem Through Reading, Crafting and Cooking.  At $24.95, this book makes a PERFECT gift for any parent or teacher of children ages 2-8…as well as for daycare providers and grandparents.  No batteries required…powered by a child’s imagination!   Buy your copy today and start the year with educational self-esteem building activities that are quick and easy and lots of fun.

About viviankirkfield

Writer for children - Reader forever Mom of 3, educator, author of SWEET DREAMS, SARAH (Creston Books, 2018), picture book junkie, lover of travel, hiking, cooking, playing Monopoly with my 8-year old grandson and fly-fishing with my husband.

Posted on January 17, 2013, in Crafts, Perfect Picture Book Friday, Picture book reviews, self-esteem and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 35 Comments.

  1. Welcome back, Vivian! This book sounds adorable. And you know I’ve love dogs. 🙂


  2. It’s getting late. I meant to say I love dogs. LOL


  3. We’ve read several books by Ezra Jack Keats but I don’t think we’ve read this one. I’ll have to check our library.


  4. One of my favoite books. Such a great book for wanna-be writers to study. Beautiful implicity with a strong message. Great choice!


    • You are so right, Pat! It is one of the five required picture books for Emma’s Just Write for Kids picture book writing course. I was lucky to have my own copy from when my kids were young…it’s a classic that has stood the test of time.:)   


  5. LOVE! And your water chime activity! My son just learned to whistle and hum at the same time – driving me nuts, it is!


    • Thanks, Julie! Glad you liked the book and activity…the water chime project doesn’t have to be as perfect as the one described…just fill a couple of glasses to different heights and the child will hear the different tones or notes. Of course, if you have plenty of time 🙂 🙂 and lots of glasses, you could really be scientific about it and create beautiful music.:) Gotta love the whistling.:)   


  6. Thank you for this write up! I had completely forgotten how much my son and I loved this book. I haven’t read it to him in ages and I know we’ll love reading it again.


    • It’s definitely one of the classics…sweet and fun and uplifting! Thanks so much for stopping by and leaving such a lovely comment…hope you and your son get a copy so you can enjoy it again.:)


  7. I love this book!! I actually love anything I’ve seen by Mr Keats. And I like your water chime idea! I know some kids who would really like to try that! Thanks!


  8. I’m still trying to learn to whistle…maybe there’s still hope…I’ll have to find this book. 🙂


  9. Great choice Ms. Kirkfield! I like the message. I love books that tell you to be happy with yourself. 🙂


    • Thanks so much, Erik! Books that make us feel good about ourselves are so important…all of us take our cues from the people and things (including books) that surround us. That’s why I love this wonderful kid lit community…everyone is so encouraging, supportive and positive.:)  


  10. I’ve always enjoyed Ezra Jack Keats…I would read him often to my classes when I was a school librarian!


  11. This is a beautiful story of self-esteem, which needed to be added to the PPBF list. I love the parents’ responses in this book.


    • So true, Joanna. The parents were supportive and loving and they encouraged Peter’s independence (kind of a shock that this little boy is allowed to go to the store by himself…but back in the early 60’s, times were different). I was surprised to see the book hadn’t been reviewed for PPBF yet.:)   


  12. I love this story and am so glad you’ve added it to the list! I still remember the day I learned how to whistle 🙂 Keats’ books are all great! Thanks for sharing!


  13. I’ve never heard of this one before. I remember when I was a child, I had an awful time learning how to whistle. Thanks for the review., I’ll have to check it out.


  14. The cover is so appealing. Sounds like a good read!


  15. This sounds like a really cute book! I have to agree, children do need to see something visual to keep them motivate to continue trying after failure. Thanks for sharing this, and linking up to Kit Lit Blog Hop!


  16. Ezra Jack Keats has written some of the best classic children’s books of all time. What a wonderful book and I like how you included the musical glass activity. I use to do that with my kids when they were smaller, but I bet they would still enjoy doing it! Thanks for linking into the Kid Lit Blog Hop. I’m now following you as well by email. 🙂


    • Thanks for hosting the Kid Lit Blog Hop, Renee! I hope to participate more on Google+…you have a wonderful community there.:) Yes, you are right…older kids would LOVE that water glass musical activity…they would probably be able to play favorite songs!


  17. What a wonderful resource and great review, thanks for linking into the hop, cheers Julie


  18. I love Ezra Jack Keats! I think sometimes his other works get eclipsed by “The Snowy Day” so it’s nice to see mention of one of his other great books.

    I love the water chime activity – thank you for the tip about using food coloring! Thanks again for sharing this with the Kid Lit Blog Hop.


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