Sisters’ Choice: childrens songs to use in class,
science songs, animal songs

Cover art    

SUN, SUN, SHINE: Songs for Curious Children

By Nancy Schimmel, Candy Forest and Malvina Reynolds
This web page is our free activity book:
Song Lyrics and Related Activities for Kids

See also: The Earthworm Dance: one of Nancy Schimmel's science songs and animal songs
that is on our site but is not on the SUN, SUN, SHINE CD

Order SUN SUN SHINE audio CD and/or other recordings and books

SUN, SUN, SHINE table of contents

1. All in This Together
2. Head First and Belly Down
3. Wolf Party
4. Sea Turtle Memories
5. 1492
6. Cycles
7. My Sister’s a Whale in the Sea
8. Sun, Sun, Shine
9. Home in the Sky
10. Eating Up the Forest
11. The Desert
12. I Am a Jewel
13. The Lambeth Children
14. Fix My Dog
15. Can’t Be an Elephant
16. Must Be Johnny Appleseed
17. Doin’ the Biscuit Dance
18. Dog Star

Resource lists


If you are lucky enough to have a local independent bookstore handy, I hope you mosey over and buy your books there. Even if they don't stock the book you want, most bookstores will special order. (If you type your zip code in at BookSense you can find your nearest independent bookstore with online ordering.) HOWEVER, if you only have chain bookstores in your town, here's an easy way to buy some of the books on this site: if a book title is underlined, clicking on the title brings you right to that book's listing at, where you can order it quick as a frog's tongue. Better yet, try your local library, which may have a virtual catalog right here in Cyberville.



A frog is smaller than I am, even smaller is the flea,
But they’ve got more bounce to the ounce than I,
Though I’ve got lots of energy,
A snail is slower than I am, a tree is slower still,
A rock is slowest till I come along
And give it a boost downhill.

We’re all in this together,
Though we are in different ways,
And it matters to each one of us
If one of us goes or stays.

A cheetah is faster than I am, and the wings of a hummingbird,
But I can go to Kenya in my mind,
Fast as you can say the word.
A woodpecker’s better at pecking, and storing food in a tree,
I keep mine in a cookie jar,
And I’m good at being me.


An elephant’s bigger than I am, a whale is biggest of all,
But when I help to protect them,
I feel great and I stand up tall,
An elephant remembers, and a whale has a deep-sea song,
And if we remember we’re in this together
It makes the whole world strong.

Words copyright 1989 by Nancy Schimmel. Music copyright 1989 by Candy Forest.

Vocal: Candy Forest & The Singing Rainbows · Piano: Candy Forest · Tenor Saxophone: Ray Loeckle · Acoustic Bass: Scott Steed · Drums: Jim Zimmerman


You probably have a favorite kind of animal. Would you want that to be the only kind of animal in the world? It’s all the kinds of animals and plants and people living together that makes our world what it is, and each one is important, including you.



1. For their size, fleas are terrific jumpers. Fleas jump about one hundred times their height. A human that strong could jump over a building forty stories high. Frogs are great broad jumpers. Many can jump twenty times their length. What’s the broad jump record for humans these days? For frogs? (The Guinness Book of World Records should tell you.)

2. A cheetah is a big cat that lives on the African plains. Because they have been hunted for their pelts, and because parts of the plains have been turned into farmland and factories, there are not nearly as many cheetahs as there used to be.

Over short distances, the cheetah can run faster than any other animal. Over a distance of a few hundred yards, how fast do you think a cheetah can run?

a) 35 miles per hour

b) 70 miles per hour

c) 100 miles per hour

3. ’Scuse us we goofed! We used the old pronunciation of Kenya (keen´ya) in our recording of this song. The way people in Kenya now say the name of their country is ken´ya.

4. "I can go to Kenya in my mind..." can you? Maybe you have seen photographs taken in Kenya. Maybe you know lions live there. Maybe you only know the country as a shape on the map of Africa.

You can go to Kenya in your mind by imagining what it would be like to be there. Then get a book from the library or look in the encyclopedia for some photographs and see how closely they match what you imagined. Reading about a country and looking at pictures can be another way of going there in your mind.

Photographs in Daisy Rothschild show a family in Kenya raising a three-month-old Rothschild giraffe they name Daisy. The author, Betty Leslie-Melville, is trying to help save the Rothschild giraffe from extinction. (Doubleday, 1987)

Mcheshi Goes to the Game Park is a picture book from Kenya in both English and Swahili. In it, a girl and her little brother visit a game park with their uncle, who is a game warden. They see elephants and other animals. It is published by Jacaranda Designs in Nairobi, but you can also buy it from their branch in the United States: Jacaranda Designs, 2701 E. Warren Avenue, Denver, CO 80210.

Another way to travel by mind-power is by having a pen pal.

International Pen Friends

Box 290065

Brooklyn, NY 11229-0001

can help you find a pen pal in another country.

5. Find a poem about an animal you like, or make up your own. A good one about woodpeckers is in Under the North Star, by Ted Hughes, a book with striking paintings by Leonard Baskin (Viking).

6. A blue whale can be 95 feet long, longer than the largest dinosaur and an elephant lined up. Find the height and length of some large animals and make a chart comparing their sizes.

7. Rachel Carson was one of the first scientists to write for non-scientists about how the lives of all animals and plants and people are connected. The Story of Rachel Carson and the Environmental Movement by Leila M. Foster (Cornerstones of Freedom Series, Children’s Press, 1990) is a brief account of her life. She was a scientist who could write so well that her 1962 book, Silent Spring, woke the whole country up to the dangers of pesticides. The people who made pesticides didn’t want to admit there were any dangers. Ms. Carson kept the book a secret while she was writing it, because she wanted to check all the facts twice before any of the book’s enemies found out about it and started arguing with her. Read a biography of Rachel Carson or of George Washington Carver, who said, "If you love it enough, anything will talk to you."

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I work in a laboratory, I study the otters each day,
I’m stuck when I come to one story, the myst’ry of why otters play,
As a scientist I look for reasons for certain behavioral traits.
Could it be just for fun that you play in the sun? I’ve even seen you race.

You go head first and belly down and then you slide into the water.
You go head first and belly down and then you slide ‘cuz you’re an otter.
You don’t have to go to school each day, you stay at home and play,
And you look so cute when you’re covered with clay, and...

You’re Mother Nature’s acrobat, the Queen of Rock ‘n Roll.
You make me laugh so hard, I feel it deep in my soul, when...

Your antics are amazing and your whiskers mesmerize.
As a big top clown, you should get the first prize, when...

Do do do do...and then you slide into the water
And then you slide, ‘cuz you’re an otter,

You’re otterly adorable, I love to watch you play,
Would you be so kind as to show me the way, the way...

Words and music by Candy Forest, arranged by Rick Walsh. ©1990 by C. Forest, Mordush Music Company.

Vocal: Meg Dane and The Singing Rainbow • Trombone: Rick Walsh • Trumpet: Steve Campos • Clarinet: Jim Dukey • Tuba: Kevin Porter • Drums: Jim Zimmerman

This song was inspired by an article in the Smithsonian Magazine (June, 1989, pp138+) about river otters and the scientists who study them. The author describes otters as sliding down riverbanks “head first and belly down” and writes, “As a scientist, [Pat] Foster-Turley hesitates to use the word ‘fun’ [to explain why animals do things], but with otters she comes close. ‘When I see one balancing a pinecone on its nose, then pulling it underwater and letting it bob to the surface, then shooting up and jumping on it, there’s nothing else to call it.’”



Pat Foster-Turley is the scientist whose study of river otters inspired “Head First and Belly Down.” She says otters are “skillful and quick-witted.” Animals that are good at getting food, like otters are, have energy left over for playing. Young mammals, whose mothers are feeding them, often have energy left over. But they seem to play for another reason too: they are learning moves they will need when they have to find their own food or get away from animals that want to eat them.

Otters and a few other mammals play even after they are grown up. When otters slide into the water over and over again it’s not to get food or shelter or to groom themselves or learn something or win a prize. They just do it!

1. Watch young children. How do they play? Take notes.

Does playing help young humans learn? Develop their muscles? Help them make friends?

Do humans play after they are grown up?

2. Watch dogs or cats, kittens or puppies or other animals play. Take notes.

Compare play activities in these different animals. Compare different ages too, if you can.

3. Wolf pups have a special signal that says to other pups and to adult wolves: “I want to play!” It is called the ‘play bow.’ Dogs make the same bow for the same reason: the dog (or wolf) stretches out its front legs and lowers the front half of its body while raising its tail and wagging it. It is saying to you, or to another dog, “I want to play!” Wolves do this before they play-fight each other. Have you seen a dog or puppy make a “play bow?”

How do you signal to your friends that you want some friendly tussling or competition, not a serious fight?

1. Divide into two teams. A good way to do this is to have one team of people with even-numbered birthdays and the other team odd-numbered birthdays. (May 21 would be on the odd team, May 22 on the evens.) Each team has a container.
2. Each player write the name of a favorite animal on a piece of paper. Fold the paper and drop it in your team’s container.
3. The first player takes a paper from the other team’s container. Don’t show anyone on your own team what is written on the paper.
4. Without making any sound, act out that animal to your own team until someone on your team guesses what animal it is. If your teammates ask you questions about the animal, remember that you can’t make any sound when you answer, just make motions.
5. Then someone from the other team chooses a paper from your box and acts out one of your animals for their team. Watch and see how well they act and guess.


OLIVER AND THE OIL SPILL, written and illustrated by Aruna Chandrasekhar. Landmark Editions, 1991.
Aruna was nine years old when she wrote this realistic story about a sea otter. Landmark Editions has a contest every year for young author-illustrators. Write to them at P.O. Box 4469, Kansas City, Missouri 64127, to find out how to enter a story you have written. EMMET OTTER’S JUG BAND CHRISTMAS by Russell Hoban, illustrated by Lillian Hoban. Parent’s Magazine Press, 1971.
Emmet wants to get his mother a store-bought present this year, but times are hard. He takes a chance on winning the talent contest. He doesn’t know his mother is doing the same thing.

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I wanna go to a party and howl at the moon
‘Cause howlin’ is really hip.
I wanna learn to howl like the big kids howl,
But all I can do is “yip.”
I wanna go ah-oooo, ah-ooooo...

I hear my mommy and my daddy sing
And it sounds so long and cool.
I throw back my head and land flat on my back
And you know I feel like a fool.
I wanna go ah-oooo, ah-oooo...

When my mom and dad howl, you’d think it’s a pack
‘Cause they get the intervals right,
And the overtones sound like wolves enough
To fill up the arctic night.

Well, I went to a party with all of my friends
And we sang till the break of day.
I fell on my back, but everyone did
And that made me feel okay,
Now I can go ah-oooo, ah-oooo...

If you want to howl, just take a deep breath,
Close your eyes and throw your head back,
You don’t need a moon, don’t need to stay on tune.
You can howl like one of the pack,
Yeah, you can go ah-oooo, ah-oooo...

Words by Nancy Schimmel, music by Candy Forest, arranged by Candy Forest and Reed Fromer.
©1991 N. Schimmel, Candy Forest/Schroder Music/Mordush Music Company, ASCAP.

Vocal: Jonathan Scullion with The Singing Rainbow • Piano: Reed Fromer • Electric Guitar: Glenna Griffin • Tenor Saxophone: Ray Loeckle • Electric Bass: Gordon Rehm • Drums: Curt Moore • Wolf howls courtesy of the California Library of Natural Sounds/The Oakland Museum

According to an exhibit prepared by the Science Museum of Minnesota, adolescent wolves do get together to practice howling, and sometimes fall over on their backs in their enthusiasm. Hear how the younger wolves sound when “all they can do is yip”

Jean Craighead George, who wrote Julie of the Wolves, also wrote a short true story about wolves helping one of their pack who was hurt, in The Wounded Wolf (Harper).

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The baby turtles scramble to the sea,
Nothing to guide them but genetic memory.
They swim and swim ‘till they’re babies no more,
Then their mem’ry guides them to the very same shore.
They lay their eggs and they don’t have to stay
To watch their babies and show them the way,
They leave them to the sun and their DNA.

Sea turtle memories, moonlight on tropical foam,
The turtles are coming, humming “There’s no place like home,”
Sea turtle memories, weaving their natural spell,
You’ve got a soft spot for somewhere, under that hard old shell.

Is it the taste of the water or the smell of the air
That tells you no, not here, it’s just over there?
Is it the feel of the current or something we can’t understand?
Sea turtle memories, made up of seasons and sand.

Words by Nancy Schimmel, music by Nancy Schimmel and Candy Forest, arranged by Jim Zimmerman.
©1990 N. Schimmel/C. Forest; Schroder Music and Mordush Music Company, ASCAP.

Vocal: Candy Forest • Marimba, Synthesizer, Percussion: Jim Zimmerman

DNA molecules carry the codes that make living things look and act something like their parents. Grandfather’s Nose: Why We Look Alike or Different, by Dorothy Hinshaw Patent (F. Watts, 1989) is a pretty easy book on genetics, explaining how looks and abilities are passed down from parents to children, including a little about DNA. For more, and more up-to-date information, try Baa! The Most Interesting Book You’ll Ever Read About Genes and Cloning, written by Cynthia Pratt Nicolson (Kids Can Press, c2001).

All over the world, people are trying to save endangered sea turtles, who are threatened by people gathering their eggs to eat, by fishnets, and by plastic trash in the ocean. You can help by using fewer plastic bags and being careful where you put them (if they get in the water and wash to the sea, the turtles think they are jellyfish and eat them). In Turtle Watch, by George Ancona (Macmillan, 1987) two Afro-Brazilian children help scientists protect the eggs of the endangered sea turtles.

In Turtle Bay, by Saviour Pirotta (Farrar, 1997), Taro waits for the sea turtles to come ashore in Japan to lay their eggs. There is also an old Japanese folktale about a boy named Urishima Taro who saves a sea turtle and is rewarded with a fantastic voyage under the sea. You can find the story in several books, including Urashima Taro and Other Japanese Children’s Stories, edited by Florence Sakade (Tuttle, 1958).

The folks at EuroTurtle for Conservation and Education have used “Sea Turtle Memories” in their educational programs.

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This song is on the Sun, Sun Shine CD

In fourteen hundred ninety-two
Columbus sailed the ocean blue,
He didn’t know what he thought he knew*
And someone was already here.

Columbus knew the world was round
So he looked for the East while westward bound,
But he didn’t find what he thought he found,
And someone was already here.

The Inuit and Cherokee,
The Aztec and Menominee,
The Onandaga and the Cree;
Columbus sailed across the sea,
But someone was already here.

It isn’t like it was empty space,
Tainos** met him face to face.
Could anyone discover the place
When someone was already here?

So tell me, who discovered what?
He thought he was in a different spot.
Columbus was lost, the Tainos** were not;
They were already here.

Lyric updates since the recording was made:
*The line refers to Columbus being so sure the world was much smaller than it is, ignoring the fact that the ancient Greeks had measured it pretty accurately. 
** A more accurate name for the tribe involved.

Onandaga: on-on-DAH-ga

Words and music ©1991 by Nancy Schimmel, arranged by Candy Forest and the musicians.

Vocal: The Singing Rainbow • Clarinet: Jim Dukey • Mandolin: John Imholz • Accordian: Bob Matthews • Drums, Percussion: Jim Zimmerman

People in different parts of the United States have put names of their local tribes in place of some of the tribes and nations in the chorus of this song. If you live in the Americas, do you know which Native Americans live near you? Are there places near you with names that come from Indian languages?

An excellent book about the people who were “already here” is Michael Dorris’ Morning Girl (Hyperion, c1992). Morning Girl, who loves the day, and her younger brother Star Boy, who loves the night, take turns describing their life on an island in pre-Columbian America. In Morning Girl’s last story, she sees the first Europeans arrive in her world.

To find out about the lives of Native American children today, look for books in the series “We Are Still Here” from Lerner Publications. Each book shows with color photographs the involvement of an Indian child in the traditions of his or her tribe:
Children of Clay: A Family of Pueblo Pottersİ
Clambake--A Wampanoag Traditionİ
Drumbeat ... Heartbeat: A Celebration of the Powwowİ
Fort Chipewyan Homecoming: A Journey to Native Canadaİ
Ininatig’s Gift of Sugar: Traditional Native Sugarmakingİ
Kinaald·: A Navajo Girl Grows Upİ
The Sacred Harvest: Ojibway Wild Rice Gatheringİ
Shannon: An Ojibway Dancerİ
Songs from the Loom: A Navajo Girl Learns to Weaveİ
A Story to Tell: Traditions of a Tlingit Communityİ

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What goes up must come down,
What we drop gonna litter this town,
But what we throw in the garbage can
Just gonna fill up the garbage land.

Throwing it out is a big mistake,
The world is made of give and take.
Stash that bottle when you’re through,
Watch it come back something new.

It goes farther than a bi-cycle,
Holds up better than a tri-cycle,
Gonna run this country on a re-cycle,
Making the wheels go round.

Summer, fall, winter, spring,
Cycles are in everything.
Paper and aluminum
Heading back where they come from.

Up and down, to and fro,
That’s what makes the engine go.
Bring it in, don’t throw it out,
Grass and trees gonna jump and shout.

Words by Nancy Schimmel, Music by Candy Forest. © 1991 N. Schimmel/C. Forest; Schroder music/Mordush Music Company, ASCAP.

Vocal and Five String Banjo: Laurie Lewis.

Recycle junk into music! In Open Ears: Musical Adventures for a New Generation (Ellipsis Kids, 20 Lumber Rd., Roslyn, NY 11576), you can find out how to make musical instruments out of throw-aways. See sample chapter. Here are a couple of easy instruments to make:


“Make” a guiro by finding a plastic bottle with deep ridges, and a stick or a pencil to run across the ridges to make a tat-a-ta-tat sound.


This can be messy; it’s best to do it outside or have wide trays to work over. Fill plastic pill bottles or clean and DRY juice cans about one quarter full with rice, salt, beans, pebbles, or whatever you come up with. Bottles: put a bit of glue or rubber cement on the inside edge of the cap before you close it, so it won’t come off when you shake it. Juice cans: after you put the filling in, tape over the opening with a piece of really sticky tape or label bigger than the hole but smaller than the can top.

Optional: Cans may be painted with acrylic paint, bottles may be decorated with markers or labels.

Learn to make your own paper from discarded paper and other fibers in Paper by Kids by Arnold Grummer (Dillon, 1980).

Here’s an old story about recycling, from a time before we called it recycling:


In a little village there once lived a tailor who was so poor that he didn’t have an overcoat. He worked hard making all kinds of clothes for all kinds of people, but he never had enough money to buy all the material he would need to make an overcoat for himself. But it was cold where he lived, and he needed a warm coat. So bit by bit he saved and saved and at last he had enough money to buy the material. He cut it carefully, so as not to waste any. He tried on the coat. It fit perfectly. He was proud of that coat. He wore it even when it was just a little bit cold. He wore it till it was all worn out.

At least he thought it was all worn out. But then he looked, and he saw there was just enough left of that coat to make a jacket. So he cut up the coat and sewed up a jacket. He tried on the jacket. It fit just as well as the coat had, and he could wear it even more often. So he did. He wore it until it was all worn out.

At least he thought it was all worn out. But then he looked, and he saw there was just enough left of that jacket to make a vest. So he cut up the jacket and made a vest. He tried it on. He looked quite distinguished in that vest. He wore it every day. He wore it till it was all worn out.

At least he thought it was all worn out. But then he looked, and he saw there were a few bits of good material left. Enough to make a cap. So he cut them out and sewed them together and made a cap. He tried it on. He looked good in that cap. He wore it outdoors and in. He wore it until it was all worn out.

At least he thought it was all worn out. But then he looked, and he saw there was still one bit of good material left, enough to make a button. So he made a button out of it. It was a good button. He wore it all the time, until it was all worn out.

At least he thought it was all worn out. But then he looked, and he saw there was just enough left of that button to make a story out of, so he made a story and I just told it to you.

Nancy says: This is a recycled story about recycling. How is it recycled? I made it out of a song. I had heard a Yiddish (Eastern European Jewish) folksong long ago, couldn’t find it again, but remembered enough about it to make a story out of it.

You can recycle the story too, by telling it to someone else. You don’t have to memorize it word by word, just remember the general idea (each thing the tailor makes is smaller than the one before) and try it out. Then try it out on somebody else, and soon you’ll know it very well. It won’t be just like my story and that’s okay. A jacket is not just like a coat. . .but your version of the story will fit you perfectly.

Recycling is part of a trio: Reduce, reuse, recycle. Reduce means not buying as much stuff, reuse means giving things you’ve outgrown to someone else who can use them, and recycling means making something new out of something old. (Some people add a fourth r: rot--referring to composting vegetable scraps and weeds to make a good soil addition for a garden. But rotting is only one way to make compost; you can also use a worm bin and the worms will make it for you. There’s an earthworm rap here on this site.

Here’s an old rhyme my mother taught me:

Use it up,
Wear it out,
Make it do
Or do without.

You might want to use it to introduce the story.

This story is in my book, Just Enough to Make a Story: A Sourcebook for Storytelling and, with many activities (papermaking, storymaking, another song), in Spinning Tales, Weaving Hope, Stories of Peace, Justice & the Environment edited by Ed Brody and others (New Society, 2002).

Now that you’ve read “The Tailor,” try reading “The Journey,” a funny story in Mouse Tales by Arnold Lobel (Harper, 1972), and see how the two stories are alike and different. You may want to tell them both.

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My sister’s a whale in the sea;
I don’t think she knows about me.
I like to imagine her swimming around
From Stellwagen Bank to Nantucket Sound.
My sister, my sister, my sister’s a whale in the sea.

My sister’s a whale in the sea.
I’ve a copy of her pedigree.
I picked out a name and my mom sent the cash,
It wasn’t much money for such a big splash;
My sister, my sister, my sister’s a whale in the sea.

My sister’s a whale in the sea,
Swimming so strong and so free.
The money will help people learn about whales,
They know which is whose by the cut of their tails.
My sister, my sister, my sister’s a whale in the sea.

So look on your family tree:
Is there room for a humpback or three?
There’s Mirror and Merlin and Clover and Cloud,
A sister or brother to make you feel proud.
Your sister, your sister, your sister could very well be
A forty-foot whale in the sea.

Words and music © 1986 by Nancy Schimmel

Vocal: The Singing Rainbows · Concertina: Ricky Rackin


Nancy got a letter from the Whale Adoption Project asking her to adopt a whale. She looked over the photographs of whales’ tails the project sends out for people to choose a whale from. Instead of choosing a whale to adopt, she sent the project this song, which they liked.


1. On a map of Massachusetts, look just south of Cape Cod (that curl of land that sticks out into the Atlantic) to find Nantucket Sound. Is Stellwagen Bank on your map? This is not the kind of bank you put money in, but a shallow part of the ocean. Look up sound in the dictionary. Which meaning does it have in this song?

2. Look up pedigree in the dictionary. The scientists in the Whale Action Project can recognize whales that come back every year in their migrations and they keep track of which calves belong to which mothers. If they know who your adopted whale’s mother and sisters or brothers are, they will tell you.

3. "The money will help people learn about whales..." It will also help the whales directly. Whales breathe air, like we do, instead of getting oxygen dissolved in water, as fish do, so they have to come to the surface to breathe. If they get tangled in fishnets or other underwater junk, they may drown. The scientists studying the whales of Stellwagen Bank have also rescued many that were tangled.

"They know which is whose by the cut of their tails..." does not mean that the whales’ tails have been cut. Sailors used to say "the cut of his jib" when they were talking about someone’s appearance. The jib is the triangular sail at the front of an old square-rigged sailing ship. Other people started saying "I like the cut of your jib," when they meant, "You make a good first impression on me." So in the song, "the cut of their tails" refers to the shape and color and markings on a whale’s tail.

4. Look up whales in an encyclopedia or find a book about whales. How are humpback whales different from other kinds of whales? Are they baleen or toothed whales? What is the difference? What do humpback whales eat?


Whale Adoption Project has whale facts and adoption information.


You can find out more about the whales of Stellwagen Bank from Crystal, the Story of a Real Baby Whale by Karen Smyth, with drawings by Norma Cuneo (Down East, 1986).

If you like to imagine whales swimming around, try The Whales’ Song by Dyan Sheldon, illustrated by Gary Blythe (Dial, 1990).

Why the Whales Came is a story that takes place in England during the first World War. Besides whales, there are ghosts and a curse. It was written by Michael Morpurgo in 1985 and published by Scholastic in 1990.

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There’s plenty of sun to go around,
You can’t use it up, you can’t wear it down,
They never run out at the sunshine store,
Another day and there’s always more,

Sun, sun, shine on me,
Pull up the water from the sea,
Let it fall on the fields of wheat
So I can have some sun to eat,
Sunshine, sunshine, shine on me.

Sun, sun, shine on me,
Send the earth your energy.
Give the cotton fields a share
So I can have some sun to wear.
Sunshine, sunshine, shine on me.

Sun, sun, shine on me,
Grow this acorn to a tree.
Bluebird build your nest in spring
So I can hear the sunshine sing.
Sunshine, sunshine, shine on me.

Sun, sun, shine on me,
Sunbeam’s warm and sunbeam’s free,
Put solar panels in your path
And I’ll have sunshine in my bath,
Sunshine, sunshine, shine on me.

Words and music © 1991 by Nancy Schimmel, arranged by Jim Zimmerman.

Vocal: Caitlin Brook Powell and The Singing Rainbow • Marimba, Synthesizer, Percussion: Jim Zimmerman

Solar energy is already being used to heat water and make electricity for homes and buildings and to cook meals in many countries. In California and Florida, solar water heaters were used over a hundred years ago. Even before that, people knew how to make houses that would take advantage of solar energy without using solar panels to make electricity. Charlotte and David Yue write about traditional passive solar construction in the Southwestern United States in The Pueblo (Houghton, 1986).

You can make a solar oven yourself or play an energy game.

To learn more about the history, present-day uses and future of solar energy, read Solar Power by Ian Graham (Raintree Steck-Vaughn, 1999). The book also includes activities you can do.


To the tune of “Little Boxes” by Malvina Reynolds

Little boxes in the back yard
With Elmer’s glue to make them sticky-tacky
Then you line them all smoothly with aluminum foil,
With a window in the top made of
Glass or a turkey-roasting bag,
You can cook without gas or electricity or oil.

And the cardboard that you cut out
To make the window opening
You can bend up to reflect in more rays from the sun
When the rays hit the black cooking pot
They turn into heat energy
Slowly cooking, never burning till your dinner is done.

Little boxes, little solar cookers
Keep your house cool in the summertime
So your fan or air conditioner doesn’t have to work so hard
And your dinner cooks but you don’t
All courtesy of solar energy
And we won’t warm the whole globe, just the boxes in the yard.

Nancy Schimmel
Written after making a solar cooker in a workshop at the Berkeley Ecology Center and then cooking applesauce in it. Zowie! It works!

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Is there a habitat in heaven
For the species that no longer dwell on earth?
When I book a trip on that old gospel ship,
I would like to think the dodo has a berth.
We have cut down the wildwood the sweet waters blessed,
It must be the eighth deadly sin
To tear up creation so the birds have no nest,
I only hope that God will take them in.
I would like to take a walk with the great and little auk,
I would like to see the passenger pigeons fly,
And all the feathered folk who have no home in this world,
I hope they find a home in the sky,

I hope they find a home up above the sky,
I hope they find a home in the sky,
And all the feathered folk who have no home in this world,
I hope they find a home in the sky.

Is there a habitat in heaven
For the species that are still to meet their doom?
When earthly comfort fails for the elephants and whales
Will the pastures of heaven give them room?
Will the great condor glide over on the other side?
Will I still hear the mountain lion roar?
Will warblers be heard with the great speckled bird,
When we meet on that beautiful shore?
Will I watch the dolphins play in that home far away?
Will I meet with the shy chimpanzee?
And if we kill so many of the creatures on this earth,
Will there still be room in heaven for me?

Will there still be room in heaven for you and me?
Will there still be room in heaven for me?
And if we kill so many of the creatures on this earth
Will there still be room in heaven for me?

Words and music © 1987 by Nancy Schimmel

Vocal: Laurie Lewis & The Singing Rainbow · Piano: Candy Forest · Acoustic Guitar: Nina Gerber · Acoustic Bass: Laurie Lewis



Nancy took the words from a lot of old gospel songs“Great Speckled Bird,” “Old Gospel Ship,” “I Can’t Feel at Home in This World Anymore”and wove them together with her feelings about extinct and threatened birds and animals to make a new song. When you write a song or story, remember that you don’t have to be entirely original. You can take old pieces and put them together in new ways.

After we recorded the song, we found out (from the Mountain Lion Foundation, P.O. Box 1896, Sacramento CA) that mountain lions don’t roar. They purr, yowl and whistle, but the roar was only in Nancy’s head. If you want to sing the song with scientific accuracy, sing it as we do now: “Will I still hear the Bengal tiger roar?” Bengal tigers are endangered, and their roar can be heard for two miles.


1. The first verse of the song talks about some extinct animals. Can you find their names in the song? Do you know what they look like? The Sierra Club Book And Then There Was One: The Mysteries of Extinction (by Margery Facklam, illustrated by Pamela Johnson, 1990) has drawings and stories of the great auk and other creatures that became extinct or are the last of their kind.

2. Some of the animals in the second verse are endangered or threatened. Do you know the difference between extinct, endangered, threatened and rare? The World Book Encyclopedia, in the article on Wildlife Conservation, explains the difference between endangered, threatened, and rare.

Books on endangered animals can go out of date as more animals become endangered or extinct or, as sometimes happens, people remove the dangers to the animals and their numbers increase again so they are not endangered.

Do you know who decides which animals are “endangered” or “threatened”? There are state lists, national lists, and an international list. The International Union for the Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources publishes lists of animals endangered all over the world in their Red Data Book. Sometimes a local population is in danger but there are larger populations elsewhere, and a state or province will list that animal to protect the ones within its borders. What department of your state or provincial government lists animals endangered in your state or province? Could you get that list and write a song or poem about your state or province’s endangered animals?

3. A habitat is a place where an animal is usually found; where it has the food, water, shelter and room it needs to grow and breed. Water pollution, cutting down trees, building dams, and other human activities can change the environment so an animal can no longer find what it needs there. Then, for that animal, its habitat is destroyed, even though other animals can still live in that place.

To help keep species from becoming extinct, we can use less power and water, so we need to build fewer dams, and fewer animals’ homes will be flooded. We can refuse to eat rainforest beef or buy fur, feathers, tortoiseshell, leather, ivory, or other products from threatened or endangered species. The ban on ivory has already brought the price of ivory down so it is less tempting to poachers. This means fewer elephants will be shot.

4. What other activities can you think of to go with this song?

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We’re eating up the forest when we eat that burger thing,
We’re eating up the monkeys and the little frogs that sing,
We’re eating up the ocelot, the orchid and the snake,
This meal would give Godzilla a monster bellyache.

Hold the ketchup, hold the meat,
I’ll find myself another treat
Because a mile or so of jungle
Is a bit too much to eat.

They are cutting down the jungle to let the cattle graze,
But the rainstorms in the tropics wash the naked soil away,
And what is left will bake and harden in the burning sun,
It’s turning trees to desert puts the burger in the bun.


The banks put up the money to cut the forest down,
The owners take the profit and they spend it in the town,
They do not hear the eagle’s cry or see the parrot’s flash,
It’s clear to me they cannot see the forest for the cash.


Words ©1986 by Nancy Schimmel. Music ©1986 by Candy Forest

Vocal: Candy Forest & The Singing Rainbow · Piano: Candy Forest · Tenor Saxophone: Ray Loeckle

Electric Guitar: Joyce Cooling · Electric Bass: Scott Steed · Drums & Percussion: Jim Zimmerman



A lot of fast-food beef comes from Central and South America where people are clearing the rainforest to make grazing land for the cattle. The people and animals who have always lived in the rain forest lose their homes, and in a few years the grazing land is no good anyway. Nancy wrote this song to sing at a demonstration to protest a meeting of the World Bank, which was lending money to countries to “develop” their rainforest by clearing it. Protests in the United States and in Brazil helped the World Bank see that they had to stop lending money for rainforest destruction.


1. A Brazilian rubber worker named Francisco Mendes (nicknamed Chico) led demonstrations in Brazil to save the rainforests. Now Chico Mendes has been shot and killed, by men believed to have been hired by the land speculators whose own selfish interests were threatened by Chico’s work. All In This Together is dedicated to Chico Mendes. You can read more about him in Chico Mendes: Fight for the Forest by Susan De Stefano (Holt, 1992).

Besides Chico Mendes, other people in Latin America, the United States, Africa and the South Pacific have been killed or hurt trying to defend the rainforest, the elephants, and other endangered animals and habitats. Watch the newspapers or the TV news for stories about these brave defenders of our planet.

2. Bats, Bugs and Biodiversity: Adventures in the Amazonian Rain Forest, is an account by Susan E. Goodman of a trip seventh- and eighth-graders from Michigan took to Peru to see a tropical rainforest for themselves. (Atheneum, 1995)

An eight-year-old boy, Omar Castillo, tried to save the rainforest in Mexico. Save My Rainforest by Monica Zak, tells his story (Volcano Press, 1992).

You can read about an African-American family defending their forest during the Depression in Song of the Trees by Mildred D. Taylor (Dial, 1975).

Look at Where the Forest Meets the Sea to see how one artist, Jeannie Baker, uses an unusual method to picture the Australian rainforest. (Greenwillow, 1988).

3. You can be a food detective and find out where your beef is coming from (the Rainforest Action Network can help). Also see their Kids Corner: Kids taking action for rainforests.

4. What countries have rainforests? An atlas or encyclopedia can help you find out. Does the United States have rainforests? Where? Are ours threatened too?

5. Why are rubber and Brazil nuts considered renewable resources? How do we get them? Have you tasted a brazil nut? Do you like them?

6. Do you know what an ocelot looks like? Do you know what kind of monkeys live in the Brazilian rainforest? Does a different kind of monkey live in the African rainforest?

List the animals in the song. Find out how some of them get what they need to live from their rainforest habitat. A book about the rainforest can help you, or find books on each animal in your library.

7. Make up your own activity for this song.

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I sing of the desert, the dirt is so clean, the air is so fair,
The folks are not mean, cause there’s no people there.

I sing of the desert, the snakes and the toads, they’re used to the clime.
If they keep off the roads, they live a long time.

I sing of the desert, the nights are so clear, the air is so still,
You can reach for a star whenever you will.

I sing of the desert, it’s ample and wide, and that’s where I’ll stay,
And that’s where I’ll hide, and that’s where I’ll bide,
Till the tide of the cities passes away.

Words and music © 1960 by Malvina Reynolds, arranged by Candy, Nancy, and Nina Gerber. Vocal: Vanessa June Marshall and The Singing Rainbow • Guitar and Harmonica: Nina Gerber

Horned toad picture
Another horned toad picture

The snakes and the horned toads (not really toads, but reptiles) can’t keep themselves warm from inside the way we mammals do, so in the cold desert nights they like to lie on a rock that has been warmed by the sun. Unfortunately, a nice warm asphalt road feels like a nice warm rock to them, and they can get run over trying to keep warm.

If you run barefoot in the summer, maybe you have noticed that you can keep your feet from getting too hot crossing an asphalt street if you walk on the painted white crosswalk line. That’s because white reflects more light than the dark road surface, and keeps that part cooler. Does the dark part stay warm after the sun goes down? Feel it and find out.

Byrd Baylor has written some fine books about the desert of the American Southwest. Coyote Cry has drawings by Symeon Shimin. (Lee & Shepard Co, 1972). When a coyote steals one of his collie’s pups to raise, a shepherd boy learns that wild creatures must follow their instincts. I’m in Charge of Celebrations is illustrated by Peter Parnall (Scribner’s, 1986). A dweller in the desert celebrates a triple rainbow, a chance encounter with a coyote, and other wonders of the wilderness. We Walk in Sandy Places has photographs of the tracks animals leave in the desert sand, and Ms. Baylor explains the stories they tell (Scribner, c1976).

Other good desert picture books are Cactus Hotel by Brenda Z. Guiberson (H. Holt, c1991), describing the saguaro, home to many creatures in its 200 years of existence; and Coyote Dreams by Susan Nunes (Atheneum, 1988), where Ronald Himler’s dreamy illustrations show coyotes coming quietly to the garden wall in the night, bringing with them their desert world of sand, sagebrush, lizards, and rocks.

The People Who Hugged the Trees: An Environmental Folk Tale has been retold by Deborah Lee Rose (Roberts Rinehart, 1990). Amrita loves the trees that protect her desert village in India from sandstorms. When a ruler orders the woods cut, she runs to hug her favorite tree; so do the other villagers. The ruler won’t change his order until a sandstorm comes and he sees that the trees are more useful as trees than as a fort.

And here is a chapter book: I Am Leaper, by Annabel Johnson (Scholastic,1990).
A desert mouse who is part of a language experiment tries to describe the terrible monster that threatens the desert, and the young dirt-bike-riding laboratory helper tries to figure out what the monster is, so he can help.

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I am a jewel, gonna shine on you
I am a jewel, gonna shine on you
Gonna shine on the world, gonna make it new
I am a jewel, gonna shine on you.

Every child is a one-of-a-kind,
Heart and soul, body and mind,
Born to grow and born to learn,
Born to give this world a turn.

We see the world with brand-new eyes,
To a baby, a bug is a big surprise.
Gonna be brand-new women and men
And discover this world all over again.

Some of us children been through a lot,
But don’t you weep about what we’re not,
Let us know we’re fresh and fine,
And every child is gonna shine and shine.

© 1990 by Nancy Schimmel. Instrumental arrangement by Reed Fromer, vocal arrangement by David Crawford.

Vocal: Roslyn Waller with Rainbow Guests and The Singing Rainbow • Keyboards: Reed Fromer

How are you one-of-a-kind? What do you know that nobody else knows? How is your best friend one-of-a-kind (or your sister or brother)? Is your list of favorite things different from your friend’s list? Do you know any identical twins? They look alike, but are they alike or different in what they know and like?

Here are the true stories of three children who went through a lot, and inspire us now:

In Through My Eyes, Ruby Bridges looks back on the time when she was six, and became the first black child to attend William Frantz school in New Orleans. Her memories of being escorted by federal marshalls past screaming mobs are amplified with quotations from news reports and interviews with her teacher, her mother, and others. (Scholastic, 1999.)

Sadako and the Thousand Cranes, by Eleanor Coerr, tells the true story of a young girl of Hiroshima who was exposed to radiation during World War II and developed leukemia later. She tried to fold a thousand paper cranes, seeking hope in the legend that doing so would bring health (Putnam, 1977). Ms. Coerr also wrote a picture book called Sadako (Putnam, 1993).

Baseball Saved Us, by Ken Mochizuki, is also about a child in World War II. A young boy tells how baseball gave him a purpose when he and his family were forced to live in an internment camp. Surrounded by guards, fences and desert, Japanese Americans created their own baseball field. His ability to play helped him after the war was over. (Lee & Low, c1993.)

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Fifty children sitting in the trees,
Fifty children swinging in the breeze,
Up in the branches and off their knees,
Hooray for the Lambeth children, O,
Hooray for the Lambeth children, O.

Eleven fine maples growing in a row,
The road to be widened doomed them to go,
But fifty kids of Lambeth cried, “No, no!”
Hooray for the Lambeth children, O,
Hooray for the Lambeth children, O.

The men with the chain saws all stood around,
’Cause the kids were in the trees and they wouldn’t come down,
So the lumberjacks packed up and went back to town,
Hooray for the Lambeth children, O,
Hooray for the Lambeth children, O.

Roads we’ve enough and roads everywhere,
Roads for the cars we can very well spare,
But long live the maple trees, green or bare!
And hooray for the Lambeth children, O,
Hooray for the Lambeth children, O.

Words and music ©1966 by Malvina Reynolds

Vocal: Nancy Schimmel, Candy Forest & The Singing Rainbow · Piano & Synthesizer: Candy Forest · Drums: Jim Zimmerman



Nancy’s mother wrote this song in 1966 when she read in the newspaper about children in Lambeth, Ontario, Canada saving some maple trees there. In 1989, Pass It On, a newsletter of the Children’s Music Network, brought more news:

“This May when the M.B. McEachren School in Lambeth, Ontario asked Sandy Byer to perform stories for grades K-8, she decided to also bring Malvina Reynolds’ song about an event 25 years ago in that very town. When she sang the story of children sitting up in trees to prevent them from being cut down to widen a road, the children had neither heard the song before nor heard the story of local civil disobedience. But . . . some of their parents may have been the very ones up in the trees at the time. One of the teachers told Sandy that her father-in-law still lived on that street and, in fact, had been the very one who organized the opposition. Sandy went out to visit the trees and found them to be large lovely maples, still flourishing. Now more trees nearer to the school are again scheduled to be felled to widen a section of the road. Perhaps her visit, her carrying of Malvina’s song, will suggest a possible response.”

Sandy Byer is a storyteller and singer who lives in Toronto, Canada, a few hours from Lambeth.


1. Start a bulletin board or scrap book of newspaper and magazine articles about children and teens doing good things for the earth.

2. Locate Lambeth on a map of Ontario, Canada.

3. Find a book on maple sugaring, a recipe using maple syrup.

4. Make up your own activity. The books on the next page may give you some ideas. If you are in a group or class, you can “brainstorm” to get a good idea for a group activity. In brainstorming, everybody in a group thinks up ideas and someone writes each one down (where everyone can see it) without discussing whether they are good ideas or not. Even a silly idea can lead in the direction of a terrific idea, which is what makes brainstorming so powerful.


1. Children help in an entirely different way to save a cherry tree in The Cherry Tree, by Daisaku Ikeda, with pictures by Brian Wildsmith. (Knopf, 1991.)

An old cherry tree in Japan hasn’t bloomed all through the war but afterwards, with the help of an old man and two children, it does.

2. You can read about other kids who have made a difference in The Kid’s Guide to Social Action: How to solve the social problems you chooseand turn creative thinking into positive action by Barbara A. Lewis (Free Spirit, 1991).

The fourth-fifth-sixth grade teacher who wrote the book helped her kids get two city grants totaling $3,600 and collect another $720 on their own to plant 187 trees in a park and in their neighborhood in Salt Lake City. Calling themselves “Leaf It To Us,” the kids also pushed through a state law creating $10,000 in grants for kids in Utah to plant trees. The “America the Beautiful Act of 1990” (S2830) makes tree planting grants available to groups, including youth groups, in any state. Contact your State Forester or your local Cooperative Extension Service Office or USDA Forest Service unit (which should be listed in your telephone directory) to find out how your group can participate in the America the Beautiful program.

The Kid’s Guide to Social Action also tells how other kids can make a difference: how to write a letter to a city official, how to lobby for a bill, raise money, apply for a grant. It even gives forms to copy and addresses to write to.

Another book like The Kid’s Guide is It’s Our World, Too! Stories of Young People Who Are Making a Difference by Phillip Hoose (Joy Street/Little, Brown, 1993).

3. Kid Heroes of the Environment, by the Earthworks Group (Earthworks, 1992) tells about many real children and teens doing good stuff for the earth. On page 50-52 there’s even a story about some kids in Massachusetts who saved some trees from being cut down to widen a road, in 1989, twenty-three years after the Lambeth children did it!

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Too many puppies, not enough homes,
Too many dogs, not enough bones.


Fix my dog, fix my dog,
Goin’ downtown to fix my dog.

My dog Blue’s a good old hound,
Got her at the lost and found.


Raccoon loves a hollow log,
Tell you how I love my dog.


Blue’s got me, and I got Blue,
She don’t need a litter too.


Every puppy should be someone’s pet,
Takin’ my dog to see my vet.


Too many kittens, that’s a fact,
If you don’t have a dog, fix your cat.

Words and music © 1990 by Nancy Schimmel.

Lead Vocals, Claudia Morrow, Alicia Roca, Crystal Reeves, Marti Smith, Nancy Schimmel & Candy Forest · Back-up Vocals, Candy Forest, Claudia Morrow, Crystal Reeves, Sam Page, Avram Siegel & The Singing Rainbow. Acoustic Guitar, Nina Gerber · Banjo, Avram Siegel · Violin, Crystal Reeves · Acoustic Bass, Sam Page.



A huge number of dogs and cats and puppies and kittens are taken to the pound every year. Most of them don’t get adopted. Others get turned loose by their owners in hopes they will make it on their own or be taken in by somebody else. Most of these die of hunger or disease. A lot of suffering wouldn’t have to happen if owners would have their pets spayed or neutered so they couldn’t reproduce.



1. Can you imagine how many puppies and kittens are born every hour in the United States? Kathie Flood, who ran the Berkeley Animal Shelter, says the best guess is around three thousand per hour, most of them unwanted. About fourteen million are ‘put to sleep’ each year in local pounds and shelters. Kathie thinks about twice that many are killed by their owners or left out to fend for themselves and die. In some areas, unwanted cats and dogs who are turned loose will compete with or prey on endangered wild animals; another reason to spay or neuter pets. Park rangers can tell you if this is a problem where you live.

2. If you have a pet, do you know the phone number of the pound or shelter near you or how to look it up so you can call them if your pet is lost? Do you know how long they keep pets? Do you know why your dog should have a license and how much they cost? Do you know if the pound runs low-cost spay/neuter clinics?

3. Do you know the difference between ‘spay’ and ‘neuter’? 101 Questions and Answers about Pets and People by Ann Squire will answer this and other questions.

4. Have you read in the newspaper or heard on TV about ‘pound seizures’? Karen O’Connor’s book, Sharing the Kingdom: Animals and Their Rights will tell you what they are. (If you can’t find these books, your public or school librarian can help you find others on the same subjects.)

5. Have you seen photographs in the newspaper of dogs and cats that need homes? Maybe you could bring one for the bulletin board. The Adventures of Taxi Dog, by Debra and Sal Barracca, is a terrific picture book about a stray dog who finds a new life riding with a taxi driver (Dial, 1990, illustrated by Mark Buehner).


1. Make a poster about the importance of spaying and neutering pets. Put it up where people will see it.

2. If you have a dog or cat, make sure they have tags with your phone number so they can be returned if they get lost or hurt. Even if you always keep them in, they could get out. Ask your parents about getting your pet spayed or neutered if it is not already.

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An elephant seal pup is as cute as can be,
So how come its daddy looks so funny to me?
I guess its mommy wouldn’t agree
‘Cause they’re sunning here together beside the salt sea.


He can’t be a harbor seal, his nose is too long,
He can’t be an elephant, his nose is too short.
Too short and too long, all in the same song,
And here at Año Nuevo they make their home port.

He looks like a nightmare, but don’t laugh or scream,
Approach him politely because you may seem
As funny to him as he seems to you,
What’s funny all depends upon your point of view.

He can’t be a mermaid ‘cause mermaids can sing
And he only bellows at any old thing.
When my daddy’s grumpy, he bellows at me,
But today we’re watching elephants beside the salt sea.

Words and music © 1990 by Nancy Schimmel, arranged by Rick Walsh.

Vocal: The Singing Rainbow • Trombone: Rick Walsh • Trumpet: Steve Campos • Clarinet: Jim Dukey • Tuba: Kevin Porter • Drums: Jim Zimmerman.

Does the elephant seal pup’s daddy look funny to you? Look at a photograph and see.

There are plenty of good color photographs in Elephant Seals by Sylvia A. Johnson (Lerner, c1989), including one of a pup who got entangled in plastic strapping. You can help elephant seals and other sea creatures by picking up plastic litter you find along the beach and putting it in a trash can.

At Año Nuevo (New Year) State Beach, north of Santa Cruz, California, rangers make sure that people can see the elephant seals on the beach but not disturb them. Just off shore, Año Nuevo Island is a refuge for seals where visitors are not permitted. The park’s SealCam is live from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Pacific Standard Time, so you can see the seals The site also has information about elephant seals.

Artist Irene Brady went to a California beach where elephant seals hang out and sketched the seals and other creatures. In Elephants on the Beach (Scribner, c1979) she shares her sketchbook and her experience there. Have you made sketches of a place you have visited? They don’t need to be good enough to put in a book, just good enough to remind you of what you have seen.

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A man from Massachusetts took someone else’s mess,
Squashed-up apples from the cider press,
Planted out the seeds and the trees sprang up,
Now there’s lots of cider for your little cider cup.

CHORUS: Circle round the seasons, through the wilderness,
Juice and pies and cobbler from the cider mill’s mess,
Seed to tree to blossom, circle without end,
Must be Johnny Appleseed, comin’ round the bend.

Johnny ran a business selling apple trees,
All around Ohio he cleared his nurseries.
If you were broke he’d take your old shirt for a tree,
If you didn’t have a shirt you’d get the whole orchard free.


The War of 1812 had the settlements in fear,
Help was far away and the danger near,
Appleseed John got the message through,
He was kind and gentle and he was a hero too.


Johnny’s ways were different but they made good sense,
He never killed an animal except in self-defense.
He found the good in garbage and the good in men,
And I hope that Johnny Appleseed comes around again.


Words and music © 1989 by Nancy Schimmel

Vocal: Nancy Schimmel & The Singing Rainbow · Acoustic Guitar: Nina Gerber · Violin & Acoustic Bass: Laurie Lewis · Banjo: Tony Furtado



John Chapman was called "Appleseed John" in his lifetime. The early settlers on the frontier didn’t have highways to bring in fruit and sugar and candy from other places. They had to eat what they could grow or find. They could find berries in the late summer, but apples were their only fresh treat in the fall and winter, so getting young trees from Appleseed John made their life a lot sweeter. He also brought them books to read and ideas to think about.

In order to write this song, Nancy read a long biography of John Chapman, Johnny Apple-seed; Man and Myth, by Robert Price. It was published back in 1954 by the University of Indiana Press. Unfortunately, they aren’t printing that book any more, and it is hard to find.


There is a good short book about John Chapman, so you can find out more about his life. It is Johnny Appleseed: A Tall Tale by Steven Kellogg (Morrow, 1988). John Chapman: The Man Who Was Johnny Appleseed, by Carol Green (Childrens, 1991) has still more information.

You can also listen to his story told by Marc Joel Levitt on an audiotape, Johnny Appleseed: Gentle Hero, available from Marc Joel Levitt, 562 Main Street, Wakefield, RI 02879.

Usually, when people want apple trees, they grow them from cuttings (small sections of apple tree branches that can take root or be grafted onto the roots of a different apple tree) rather than growing them from seeds as John Chapman did. The trouble with growing apple trees from seeds is the taste of the fruit might not be the same as from the parent tree. A tree grown from a cutting will have exactly the same kind of apple.

But Chapman traveled on foot, mostly, and cuttings would die before he could root or graft them. Seeds would be easier to carry than young trees. People were glad to get John Chapman’s trees because he had them in places where no other apple trees were growing.


1. You can start an apple tree like Johnny Appleseed did, but it will take a long time. Apple seeds must rest before they can grow. Keeping your apple seeds in the refrigerator for three months before you plant them will give them a good start. Orange and lemon seeds don’t need to rest. If you plant several orange seeds in a paper cup or in a flower pot filled with dirt or potting mix and keep it moist (not drowning!) a new little orange tree may grow. A lively girl named Linnea will show you how to grow orange trees, apple trees and other plants in a book called Linnea’s Windowsill Garden by Cristina Björk (R&S Books, distributed by Farrar Straus). Linnea lives in the city and she proves that you don’t need a yard to have a garden.

2. Gail Gibbons has put a swing and a tree house in the tree in her picture book,The Seasons of Arnold’s Apple Tree ( Harcourt, 1984). She also includes a diagram of a cider press and a recipe for apple pie. Peter Parnall, in his book, Apple Tree, observes all the bugs, birds and animals that visit the tree or live in it. You could choose a tree of any kind and keep a journal in words and pictures of its visitors and its changes through the seasons.

3. Have you ever eaten apple cobbler? It is like apple pie, only instead of crust top and bottom it has biscuit or shortcake dough on top OR bottom (not both). It is easier to make than apple pie and tastes good.

If you have biscuit mix you can use it for the dough or follow a recipe for 12 biscuits. The apples have to be boiling hot before you put the dough on, or they won’t get cooked in the time it takes to bake the dough. If you are too young to cut apples and use the stove, you can peel the apples with a peeler, then a grown-up can cut and heat them (about five cups of sliced apples with a splash of water or apple juice will do it) and put them in an 8" x 8" baking pan while you lightly mix the dough. Then you can blob the dough on top (it doesn’t have to be neat) and let the grown-up bake the cobbler in a 425o oven for about 1/2 hour.

Cinnamon and a little sugar in the apples (if they are tart) or sprinkled on the dough will make it taste sweeter. But remember, the early settlers didn’t have much sugar. If you want to see how it would have tasted to them, use just a little or none at all.

4. Do you know a good apple recipe? What is your favorite kind of apple? How many kinds have you tasted? Could your group or class have an apple-tasting to find out which varieties you like best? You would have to have enough of each kind of apple so everyone could have several slices of each kind to compare with the other kinds. Remember to label the plates!

5 What other ideas do you have about activities to go with this song?

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Clever as the arctic fox,
I sidle up to the biscuit box.
I bob and weave, I tap, I prance,
Doin’ the biscuit dance.

In this world you can never tell
If you’ll get a biscuit or a yell
But as for me, I’ll take that chance,
Doin’ the biscuit dance.

Biscuits are my passion,
Morning noon and night,
Kibbles fill my tummy,
But biscuits make me feel just right

I love coffee, I love tea,
I love somebody scratching me
But biscuits are my great romance
Doin’ the biscuit dance

I need my collar, need my tags
Walkin’ gives my tail the wags
But the tune that fills my pants with ants
Is “Doin’ the Biscuit Dance.”

Words and music © 1991 by Nancy Schimmel, arranged by Nancy, Candy and the musicians.

Vocal: Lesa Cassidy with The Singing Rainbow and Queenie, the Queensland Heeler • Guitar: Nina Gerber • Violin: Crystal Reeves • Banjo: Harrison Hamill (who recorded this at age eleven) • Acoustic Bass: Laurie Lewis.

Maurice Sendak wrote a fantasy about one of his favorite dogs, Jeannie, in one of our favorite books, Higglety Pigglety Pop! or, There Must Be More to Life (Harper, 1967). For kids who want to know more about how to take care of a real dog he also wrote Some Swell Pup: or, Are You Sure You Want a Dog? (Farrar, 1976) in which the Wise Passerby helps two children form a happy relationship with their rambunctious new puppy. In Storm in the Night by Mary Stolz (Harper, 1988) a thunderstorm has put the lights out, and an African American grandfather tells his grandson how, when he was a boy, his dog helped him lose his fear of storms.

Do you have a favorite dog story?

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You’re not a dog, you’re the dog star,
Going downstairs in the west,
Making your ritual orbit,
Being a Sirius pest.

Now here you are at the east door,
Looking so waify and frail,
If you weren’t perfectly tail-less,
I’d say you were chasing your tail.

Circling home, woof, woof,
Circling home.

Now you want in where it’s cozy,
Then you’ll be dying for air.
If there were a side beside outside and inside
I know you’d want to be there.

If you’re in search of Orion,
Why are you here on the ground?
You should be shinin’ and flyin’
On the great merry-go-round.

Words and music © 1991 by Nancy Schimmel, arranged by Candy Forest and David Hegarty.

Vocal: The Singing Rainbow • The Grand Wurlitzer Organ in San Francisco’s historic Castro Theater played by David Hegarty. Special thanks to Bill and Dick Taylor, owners of this Wurlitzer Opus 1148, circa 1925, and to Ray Taylor and the Castro Theater for assisting in the recording.

Sirius, the dog star, is the brightest star we see. Can you find it? Its blue-toned light marks the head of the constellation Canis Major, the big dog that follows the hunter, Orion, through the winter sky. Find out more about these constellations in See the Stars: Your First Guide to the Night Sky, by Ken Croswell (Boyds Mill Press, c2000) or Orion, the Hunter, by Necia H. Apfel (Clarion Books, c1995).

Each of twelve short stories in Cynthia Rylant’s Every Living Thing (Macmillan, 1985) captures the moment when an animal causes a human being to see things in a different way.

Two Old English sheep dogs, Casey (the biscuit dancer) and Sonnet (the dog star) came to us from a man who had ARC (AIDS-Related Condition) and was too ill to take care of them any longer. They had lived with him for twelve years, since they were puppies, and he wanted them to have a good home. They lived to be fifteen.