Funnybones by Janet AhlbergThe husband and wife team, Allan and Janet Ahlberg, have produced numerous picture books. Allan Ahlberg has over a hundred to his name, and Janet Ahlberg has illustrated many of them. Funnybones is one of the best, and as so often, it is a simple idea which is the key.
This is how the story begins.
On a dark dark hill
there was a dark dark town.
In the dark, dark town
there was a dark, dark street.
In the dark, dark street
there was a dark, dark house.
In the dark, dark house there was a dark, dark staircase.
Down the dark, dark staircase
there was a dark, dark cellar.
And in the dark dark cellar ...
(pause dramatically for the page-turn ...)
... some skeletons lived!
Simply brilliant - even starting with the words This is how the story begins...
And with this atmosphere, any five year old will be completely enthralled by now. It even carries on in a way which reflects story books of old:
There was a big skeleton, a little skeleton and a dog skeleton.
Needless to say, the skeletons are cute, and not scary at all as they peep around the door and wave in a friendly fashion. The illustrations are comic and cartoonish, complete with occasional brief speech bubbles, which move the story along and add to the sense of the story. All the colours are bright, which contrasts well with the black background which is used throughout. The text too is printed in white on black, which adds to the dramatic spooky yet fun feel.
One night the skeletons decide to take their dog for a walk and frighten somebody. Thats what skeletons are supposed to do, right? So off they go.
They have a good game in the park, and play on the swings, but as the dog skeleton is chasing a stick, he bumps into a tree and falls apart. Calamity! Hes now just a pile of bones! The big skeleton and the little skeleton do their best to put him back together, but when he says ‘Woof’ it comes out all muddled. The dog skeleton is all mixed up, and his head is on the wrong way round, so he barks FOOW!
Eventually the big skeleton and the little skeleton do manage to put him back together, and then they all go to visit their skeleton friends at the zoo.
So did they frighten any of the animals?
What do you think? They had a lot of fun, but one picture shows the three skeletons running away from a skeleton of a crocodile ...
But everyone in the town is in bed, and in the end, they still haven’t frightened anybody. So the little skeleton suggests that they frighten each other instead.
And they do.
The story goes full circle, as the repetitive beginning is mirrored and repeated on the final page, which is very satisfying.
This book is pretty near perfect, both for children just starting to learn to read, and older ones too. Using the setting of a walk to the park and to the zoo, creates familiar situations for young children. The text is easy to read, and the repetition aids fluency. It is enhanced by the illustrations, which are as humorous and quirky as the story itself. It is very, very funny.
This first and original, Funnybones has become a classic, with many further books in the series to follow about the Funnybones family. In terms of fun it is unsurpassed, and also teaches about onomatopoeia with all the animal sounds such as oink, woof, miaow - and boo! It is also quite an achievement to not only introduce young children to the concept of having a skeleton, but also to the names of the bones - and even how a skeleton is structured. The book does this by quoting some of the lyrics of The Skeleton Dance (Dem dry bones) as they put the dog skeleton back together again.
Allan and Janet Ahlberg have deservedly received many awards worldwide, including the Kate Greenaway Medal. This is one of my personal favourites, which can be used within school, library or home situations.
The scary skeleton
We love including songs and rhymes in our playtime with our toddlers and preschoolers. From classic nursery rhymes that we have sung to our little ones since they are babies to counting rhymes that help our young toddlers to count and learn number words. Rhymes and songs are such an easy way to help toddlers and preschoolers develop language. They will learn ways in which word rhyme as they sound the same, they can learn counting words, beginning sounds as well as having a fun way to bond together. We have included links to resources that we recommend. If you buy via these links we may earn a small commission.
Show annotations. Genre: Education. Subscribe K. The Kiboomers - Skeleton Dance! Halloween songs! Halloween music for kids! Shake dem Halloween Bones!
Classroom Management. Songs By Artist. Piano Solo.
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