Perfect Picture Book Friday – Crankee Doodle

Perfect Picture Book Fridays are the creation of the lovely children’s book author Susanna Leonard Hill. Check in each week on Fridays for new book reviews. Susanna also has a complete list (alphabetically and by theme) of all the book reviews. It’s a wonderful resource if you’re looking for activities for a book, or books focused on a particular theme.

crankee_doodleTitle: Crankee Doodle

Author: Tom Angleberger

Illustrator: Cece Bell

Publisher: Clarion Books

Year: 2013

Genre: Fiction picture book

Ages: 4-8

Themes: American history; parody; moods/feelings

[illustration of Crankee Doodle lying under a tree]
Crankee: I’m bored.
Pony: We could go to town.
Crankee: Town? No way. I hate going to town. There are too many people in town. They all run around in a hurry and ring bells and eat pies, and then they yell at each other to stop running around, ringing bells and eating pies. There is nothing good to do in town. Why would I want to go to town?

Synopsis: (from publisher’s website) Yankee Doodle went to town / a-riding on a pony / stuck a feather in his hat / and called it macaroni.” Many know the song “Yankee Doodle Dandy,” but few understand it. This unapologetically silly picture book reveals that the legendary ride to town (and the whole macaroni thing) was all suggested by Mr. Doodle’s overeager pony. This just makes Mr. Doodle cranky: “I do not want macaroni. I do not want a feather. I do not want any other clothing, any other pasta, or any other parts of a bird. I do not want anything that they have in town!” A historical note ends this colorful, comical take on a nonsensical old song.

What makes it great: We’ve all been either cranky ourselves, or known someone who is cranky. I’m pretty sure I have had these exact conversations with my husband about going to the mall. The author perfectly captures that tone in the conversation between Crankee Doodle and his much more reasonable pony.

What readers notice: We read this every day for several weeks, and laughed out loud every time. My 4-year-old said, “We laughed our guts out.”

What a writer notices: This is a great example of a simple, but truly brilliant idea. Every American has wondered at some point what the heck was the meaning of the Yankee Doodle song? Tom Angleberger capitalizes perfectly on this universal question.

Activities/Links to Resources: 

This website from the Library of Congress contains brief background on Yankee Doodle, and the ability to listen to several different performances of the song. There are also suggested activities for using historical songs in the curriculum.

This lesson plan helps students interpret  the meaning of Yankee Doodle.