Perfect Picture Book Fridays: Gift-Bear for the King


Today is Perfect Picture Book Friday where I link up with Susannah Leonard Hill’s fantastic group of writers who contribute a picture book review and related resources. 

Self-esteem has six basic components.  Today’s picture book selection addresses all of them: Mastering tasks and skills, valuing one’s own strengths and qualities, feeling loved and appreciated, learning to express one’s feelings, acknowledging and coping with fears and accepting and loving oneself.    I know that parents and teachers will enjoy the simple eco-friendly craft project at the end of my review. 

The main character of the story loves singing and Wednesday’s guest post was from Daria, a talented musician who travels around the globe, sharing her passion for music with young children.  I hope everyone will check out her post and visit her amazing websites!  She provided us with several great musical instrument-making crafts and is giving away a wonderful poster that celebrates music around the world.



A Gift-Bear for the King

Written by Carl Memling

Illustrated by Lillian Hoban

Publishers: E.P. Dutton & Co (1966)

Ages: 2 – 8


Mastering tasks and skills, dealing with disappointment, overcoming adversity, helping others, friendship


“There was once an old man and an old woman who lived in a hut in the forest.  They were very poor, but they had a little bear cub for a friend.”


A very talented bear-cub is sent as a birthday gift for the king by a loving old couple.  As the bear-cub travels to reach the king, he meets and helps many people.  When he finally arrives at the palace, the king’s birthday is long over and the guards lock him up in the dungeon because he is so late.  While in his prison cell, the bear-cub sings a sad and beautiful song about his travels.  Will the bear-cub spend the rest of his days in the dungeon?  Does the king ever find out about his special present?  What will happen to the old couple?

Why do I like this book

The foundations of our self-esteem are laid in the first five years of life…I love picture books that celebrate any of the six components that help a child develop a positive self-image…and this book addresses all six!  Gift-Bear for the King was my oldest son’s favorite story…we both knew it by heart by the time he was four.  Gift-Bear could sing, stand on his front paws and wash the dishes…he was always ready to help those in need.  Young children will be singing along with the refrain before you turn the last page. 

The illustrations, in Lillian Hoban’s inimitable style, are charming.

Related Activities:

There is a lovely crown craft activity here

There are quite a few crowns and other hat-making craft activities here.

There are excellent step-by-step crown-making instructions with photos here.


The crown you help your child make can be as simple or as fancy as you like.  The picture is from a kit you can buy from Oriental Trading Company.  I included it to show you how ornate you can make the crown…but your child will enjoy wearing a simple one also.

 You will need: Construction paper, buttons or sequins (optional) crayons or markers, glue, scissors.

1.      Cut strips of construction paper and measure to fit your child’s head.  Piece together with glue if necessary.

2.      Cut a zig-zag along the top edge.  You can make it fancy like the one above or just simple.

3.      Let your child decorate with crayons and/or markers.

4.      If you wish, add “jewels” cut from different colored construction paper…or buttons…or sequins.  Glue into place and let dry.

5.      Fit the decorated crown strip to your child’s head and glue the two ends together.

6.      Important tip: Most of you are too young to remember one of the first “reality” shows, Queen for a Day, where an ordinary woman was featured and given prizes and made to feel very special.  Perhaps your child can be Queen or King for a Day in your home…helping choose the dinner menu, picking the family game that will be played.  Feeling loved, valued and appreciated is such an important element in building self-esteem…children who are confident are less likely to be victims of bullying.

This post is part of a series for parents and teachers called Perfect Picture Book Fridays hosted by Susannah Leonard Hill.  Click on her link and find lots of other picture book suggestions with summaries and activities.

Celebrate Music in our Schools Month with Daria


What a special treat I have for you today!


Daria, a gifted musician who believes that music is food for the body, mind and soul, shares her talents with children around the globe.  Several weeks ago, she offered to do a guest post on my blog.  As you can imagine, it took me less than a second to accept her offer!


Children love music…they enjoy singing and playing instruments and, if you’ve ever watched young children dance; you’ll have seen how their entire bodies are involved in the activity.  Music is another tool we can use to help children develop a positive self-image.  Thank you so much, Daria, for all that you do in your mission to spread music to children around the globe!


So, without further ado, Daria is sharing several awesome ideas to help us celebrate Music In Our Schools Month.  Make sure you read through to the end…because she is also giving away several amazing posters.




Making music is one of those wonderful “can do” activities to share with your children.  Even the youngest toddlers can shake a rattle, clap to a beat or craft a simple instrument with you.  Together you can do the simple actions of Itsy Bitsy Spider or the motions to Kumbayah.  Or they can offer you the names of their friends to be used in a slightly different version of “Oh Susannah”.  With very little work and a whole lot of fun, you can incorporate some great musical play into your home, school or home-school day.  Check out some of the ideas below as well as DARIA’s fun KIDS MAKE MUSIC poster give-away! 



Ask any pre-k or kindergarten teacher – mixing arts and crafts and music generally makes for a big hit in the classroom.  One fun activity perfect for this age group is creating really quiet rattles. 


The project is simple.  Have each child bring in any recycled container, preferably a see-through one and have a few extra so no one is left out.  You can decorate the outside with stickers or wrap a handle with pipe-cleaners or yarn before you are ready to fill them.  Here’s the tricky part.  You want to find lots of things to put in the rattles that are really quiet.  The teacher can have some examples of rattles that are not so quiet for comparison (see our suggestions below) and then challenge the children to fill theirs with something that will make noise but still be very quiet.  Q-tips, salt, tiny pasta, cotton puffs, confetti?  Each makes a different quiet sound that helps kids practice the art of listening.  When you’re done, make sure you seal each rattle with a strong tape (such as electrical tape) which ensures the contents will not get out.  Then your class can use their new instruments to play along to quieter music.  The kids can pay attention to how the rhythms of their rattles fit into the music they are hearing.


You can even have a contest in the classroom and reward all entries or ask the kids for their suggestions about which of the teachers rattles would win a “Quiet Contest”.   Stack up a variety of rattles and the class can guess which might make the softest sound. 


Here are some favorite choices for rattle-making:


Quiet rattles: sand, salt, sugar, confetti, cotton balls, craft puff balls, paper bits, Q-tips, tiny pasta (such as pastina or acine de pepe). 


Medium Rattles:  paper clips, small pebbles, birdseed, small beads, small dried beans, rice, smaller buttons.


Loud Rattles:  dried macaroni/pasta, large pebbles, large beads, coins, large dried beans, and larger buttons.





Creating a simple guiro can be a fun way to share Latin-American culture, a bit of Spanish language and music-making skills at the same time.  A guiro is any small percussion instrument that has ridges which are scraped or rubbed creating rhythmic patterns.  The craft below shows you how to make one from an unsharpened pencil, a recycled water bottle (with ridges) and some string or other decorating material.  It’s easy, fun and sounds great! You can see, hear and color a guiro as well at the link below.


When you’ve completed your instruments, you can play them along with any simple songs in Spanish such as the counting song: uno, dos tres amigos (one and two and three good friends) or try the Spanish version of the Itsy Bitsy Spider (La Araña Pequeñita).  Or what about La Cucaracha?  Below you’ll find a link of a video of my version of La Cucaracha with Spanish and English lyrics, complete with dancing cockroaches (cucarachas) that actually play their guiros!






La Cucaracha Video (with Spanish and English Lyrics)




What can be used to make music?  Practically anything!  The musical washboard is proof that people have found creative ways to make music from all kinds of interesting objects. You can see, hear, color or find complete directions on making a kid’s size washboard from easy classroom materials at the links below.


Once you’ve made your own washboards, you can play along to any music but they sound particularly good with old-time music and classic songs like Grand Old Flag, You Are My Sunshine or This Little Light of Mine.  And you can make some best-loved songs new.  You can sing “Oh Susannah” with the names of your students instead (singing a different version each day or each time with a new student’s name so no one is left out).


Do you have a folksong or popular kid’s song that you want to teach your class? This is a great way that the kids can sing and play along with a favorite song at the same time.









Although March is Music In Our Schools Month, there are no limits to how this powerful and powerfully fun tool can be shared at any time of year.  Feel free to inspire your children through song…chances are good that you will have a happy and harmonious day!





Check out DARIA’s World Music For Kids website:


Check out DARIA’s Tiny Tapping Toes BLOG

(Music For The Very Young)


Check out DARIA’s Making Multicultural Music BLOG

(Sharing Diversity Through The Arts)





To celebrate Music in Our Schools Month, DARIA has created a “WORLD OF MUSIC FOR KIDS” poster and poster give-away. 


If you’d like to win, please leave two comments…one on Daria’s Making Multicultural Music Blog at and one on this post about why you love music or the impact music has made in your life and/or your child’s life.  Five lucky winners will receive a World of Music for Kids poster.


We also encourage you to sign up for Daria’s monthly e-newsletter ( ) so you can get free mp3’s each month, news of other contests, crafts, activities, and other musical fun.