HOW TO: The Read Aloud Book Club

Pete Seeger's storysong Abiyoyo has delighted generations of parents and children. The tale of how a father with his magic wand and a boy with his music triumph over the giant Abiyoyo is based on a South African lullaby and folk story.

On BETWEEN THE LIONS Episode #205, Zoop! Zoop!, the Lions bring the story of Abiyoyo to life and help Leona face her fear of monsters. 


Before you read Abiyoyo:  

Start a conversation that will help prepare children to enjoy the story with you. You may want to provide a simple introduction, such as, This story is about a boy and father who help save their village from a monster. Asking questions is a great way to get children involved. Try these to get started:

  •  Do you know anyone who plays piano, guitar, saxophone, or any other musical instrument? Which one?
  • If you had a magic wand, what special power would it have? 

As you read Abiyoyo:

 Encourage children to ask questions, predict what will happen next in the story, or laugh out loud. Point out interesting pictures or words as you read. If a word seems unfamiliar, help children think about its meaning in the story, then define it for them using simple terms.

Word Watch:

• ostracize: to purposely leave people out of a group
• ukelele: a small wooden instrument with strings

After you read Abiyoyo

Ask children whether or not they liked the story and find out why. Help them make personal connections with the characters or plot by asking questions, such as: 

  • Why did the townspeople ask the boy and his father to leave? 
  • Why were the boy and his father not afraid of Abiyoyo? 
  • How would you scare away a monster? 


Doing a hands-on activity after reading a book aloud gives children a chance to be creative and makes the story experience more personal and memorable. Each of these activities is easy and uses common materials. You can try one or more, adapt them, or make up your own!

Idea #1:
Have children make magic wands. Use cardboard tubes, craft sticks, or a sheet of rolled up paper for the wand. Decorate with stickers, glitter glue, markers, crayons, stamps, or ribbon. If you wish, pre-cut a cardboard star for each child to attach to the top of the wand. Then ask kids to make up their own magical words (the sillier the better!) to say while waving their wands.

Idea #2: Help children make their own musical instruments, such as a shaker or maraca. Fill plastic tubs (or other containers with lids) or paper towel tubes with pebbles, beans, buttons, or rice. Then put on the lids or cover the tube openings with paper and secure with tape or rubber bands. Have kids play their instruments in a homemade band while they sing the Abiyoyo song, which you can find at the end of the book. 

Idea #3: Abiyoyo is a great story to re-enact. Use a tissue box or shoebox and rubber bands to create a make-believe ukelele. A baton or a roll of cardboard could be the magic wand. A paper bag with a scary face drawn on it (cut out the holes to see through) makes a good monster mask. Have children take turns playing the father, the boy, or Abiyoyo. The others can play the townspeople. 

Bonus Ideas

  • From the library or bookstore, get a tape or CD of Pete Seeger singing “Abiyoyo.” Learn the music on the piano, guitar, or kazoo. Sing it loud! 

  • Have kids draw a picture of a monster. What is its name? What can it do? 

  • Read the sequel, Abiyoyo Returns, or other fun monster books, such as Laura Numeroff’s Ten-Step Guide to Living with Your Monster, or Monster Cake by Rebecca Dickinson.

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