I Can Fly – a celebration of children’s imaginations

thFeaturing a story by the legendary Ruth Krauss and Mary Blair’s classic 50’s illustrative style, I Can Fly is a picture book for the ages.

Bibliographic Info:  Krauss, Ruth (writer), Blair, Mary (illustrator)  I Can Fly  Random House (1951, 1979)  24pp  Formats:  Hardcover  ISBN 0-307- 10548-2  $12.95, Little Golden Book $3.99, iBook for iPad, Kindle  Interest Level: Baby-5  Reading Level: preK and up  Genre: Classics, Rhyming Books  Themes:  Animals, Confidence, Movement, Imagination, Wonder

StorytimeWow_FinalLogo-1Given the StorytimeWOW Marquee Seal on March 6th, 2015.  This classic preK picture book/eBook meets the StorytimeWOW Standards and has been selected for the PictureBookWOW and Picture eBookWOW collections here at storytimeWOW.com.  Read the Storytime section below for details on why this story was selected.

ICANFLY_BoingBoing2Summary:  A confident little girl imagines she can be all kinds of animals.  On spread after spread, she imaginatively finds ways to playfully mimic various animal behaviors.

Review: I Can Fly is a joyful Little Golden Book about young children’s unlimited imaginations.  Through poetry, rhyme and illustration, each page portrays a select animal and the bright little girl who finds creative ways to pretend to be that animal.  With glorious writing and artwork, I Can Fly is a wonderful celebration of childhood.  Mary Blair’s classic illustrative style is at its best on these pages.  Publisher’s Weekly has this to say about Mary Blair’s vibrant illustrations in I Can Fly:  “The artwork contrasts her (the little girl’s) antics with the animals she imitates in flatly patterned, stylized shapes that owe much to 1950s-era animation.”  Published in 1951, this Little Golden Book is now available in electronic formats (iBook and Kindle).  I Can Fly is a read aloud picture book for the ages.

Storytime:  I Can Fly was given the StorytimeWOW Marquee Seal because it meets the following StorytimeWOW Standards:

  • Dynamic writing and universal appeal.  I Can Fly is written in short appealing couplets that introduce animals and their corresponding behaviors (for example, “Swish! I’m a fish.” or “A cow can moo. I can too.”)  Kids love animals and enjoy imitating them so this book is a winning storytime recipe.
  • A strong writing/illustrating relationship is evident.  Both the author (Ruth Krauss) and the illustrator (Mary Blair) are legendary artists in children’s books. Their talents are on display throughout the pages of I Can Fly.
  • The “WOW” factor is evident.  Children will find this book enjoyable during storytime, especially if you play up the participation elements and let children help you tell the story (by naming the animals and acting out animals behaviors, just like the little girl).
  • I Can Fly is a short, enjoyable and interactive picture book (only 24pp), so it is well-suited for repetition. The story has been popular since the 1950s and this speaks to its timelessness.
  • The illustrations work for groups. While the Little Golden Book format is too small for big groups, I Can Fly has been reprinted as a larger hardcover book and it is available in eBook formats.  The electronic formats can be used with a large screen monitor or projector during a new media storytime, making illustrations easy to see from a distance.  The illustrations are beautiful eye candy.  Once visible to all via larger formats, children will be delighted by Blair’s drawings of the little girl and the various animals she imitates.
  • The book possesses the happy takeaway of wonder and it encourages imaginative play.
  • Animals and Imagination are popular child-centered themes.
  • The story keeps the listener’s attention and is free of squirmy moments.
  • The interest level of this story is babies (9 months old) through preK.
  • Built-in participation elements invite toddlers and preschoolers to name animals and mimic behaviors described in poetic couplets and illustrations across each spread.

hw_icanfly_fishStorytime Tips:  Use this book to introduce more animals and animal behaviors to young children.  Encourage kids to name the animals they see after each page turn.  Then, read the couplet and mimic the behavior it describes through movement.  Encourage children to imitate animal behavior in their own ways.  Focus on their comprehension and acknowledge their creativity.

Bibliotherapeutic Usefulness:  I Can Fly is intended to encourage children and inspire imagination.  The main character is a confident role model for kids.  She is happy, playful and most important, she believes in herself.  Experiencing this book is the definition of bibliotherapy and children will benefit from I Can Fly.  After reading the book, ask children to talk about what they like to do and what they are good at.

Early Childhood Education and Development:  The following lists I Can Fly’s stand-out benefits across various early childhood education (ECE) and child development checklists.

1. I Can Fly is a picture book/eBook that cultivates the following Pre-Reading Skills (see full list of pre-reading skills here):

  • Teaches toddlers names of animals and words that describe animal behaviors (vocabulary)
  • Noticing print and following words on a page or screen (print awareness).
  • Hearing and playing with smaller sounds in words like the “irm” or “unch” in “squirm” and “crunch” (phonological awareness).
  • Cultivates interest and enjoyment in books (print motivation).
  • Being able to describe things (narrative skills)

2. This book/eBook provides opportunities to utilize the Early Literacy-building Parent Practices (see full list of parent practices here):

  • To encourage talking, use this technique.  First turn the page and have kids name the animals they see. Next, read the couplet, focus on the child’s comprehension, and encourage imitation through movement (you can model this).  Finally, describe your children’s behavior back to them and recognize their creativity. Ask them to describe your animal behavior. By stretching this book into a series of conversations about the animals and by utilizing movement, you will help toddlers learn to express themselves using language and gesture.
  • Reading together is “the single most effective way to help children become proficient readers” (source:  Every Child Ready to Read).
  • Playing is a primary way in which children learn language (and I Can Fly is a very playful book).

3. This book/eBook builds children’s Kindergarten Readiness (see full checklist here).  Children well-prepared for kindergarten are able to:

  • Listen to stories without interrupting
  • Recognize rhyming sounds
  • Pay attention for short periods of time to adult-directed tasks
  • Speak understandably
  • Talk in complete sentences of five to six words
  • Look at pictures and then tell stories
  • Identify rhyming words
  • Identify the beginning sound of some words
  • Recognize some common sight words

4. This book/eBook follows Common Core Guidelines (see full list here):

  • Integrate more new media materials and technology in group programs and classroom settings.  Cultivate media literacy behaviors through modeling.
  • Increase focus on children’s comprehension through dialogic reading. Ask questions before, during and after telling stories.
  • Create a more participatory culture in group programs and classroom settings. Use materials that invite participation and keep learners engaged.

5. This book/eBook supports young children’s “emerging mental abilities” by providing opportunities for “key experiences” that strengthen and broaden these abilities (see full list here):

  • Using Language (conversing with adults about personally meaningful experiences, describing actions verbally, expressing feelings in words, listening to others describe objects and events, listening to stories and poems being read, making up stories)
  • Representing (recognizing animals by sound, imitating sounds and actions, relating pictures to real places and things, role playing/pretending)
  • Temporal Relations (starting and stopping an action on signal)
  • Spatial Relations (experiencing ones own body, how it is structured, what the basic parts can do)

Significance:  I Can Fly was first published in 1951 (more than six decades ago) and it is still in print.  Not only that, it’s now available in electronic formats.  Amazing.  I Can Fly is a story that truly deserves its description as a “little golden book”.

hw_icanfly_terrierRead-alikes:  If you and your children enjoy experiencing classics like I Can Fly, try these:  The Carrot Seed by Ruth Krauss and Crockett Johnson, and Harold and the Purple Crayon by Crockett Johnson.

Check out this awesome collections of Mary Blair Classic illustrations!  Mary Blair Treasury of Golden Books

Links:  Ruth Krauss at Harper Collins   The Magic of Mary Blair website   Little Golden Books   Amazon  

Achievements:  I Can Fly is widely considered to be a masterpiece in children’s literature.  This heartening picture book retains its relevance to children and their caregivers in the 21st century. 

Other Reviews:  Goodreads   Kirkus ICANFLY_BoingBoing3(article on book about Mary Blair)   Review of I Can Fly (at Brain Pickings)

I chose to review this book because I am always searching for classic and contemporary read-alouds for children’s traditional and new media storytime programming.

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Go to your local library to check out books for free (and get more recommendations).

Written by Tom Schween, founder of storytimeWOW!