In Storytime Issue 41, we had great fun commissioning the illustrations for Christina Rossetti’s classic poem, The Months. We also created a teaching resource pack for our school subscribers. (Find out more about getting these free resources on our Storytime for Schools site.)
The months of the year and the order in which they come are essential facts all children learn. Like the days of the week and the colours of the rainbow, they’re also wonderfully emotive. We associate the months with special occasions, major events and the weather – all of which provoke strong feelings. It was a challenge for illustrator Tuomas Ikonen to cram this all into two pages, but he handled it brilliantly.
In her poem, Christina Rossetti expresses in a few choice words what each month means or brings. For example, her use of the words ‘bleak’ and ‘desolate’ for December and January reveals that these aren’t her favourite times of year. It’s a short and simple poem, but it says a lot. It’s also an excellent starting point to inspire children to create their own month poems. What does each month mean to them?
This poem inspired us to think about stories that express the emotions or events of each month of the year. Is there a Storytime poem or story for every month of the year? We looked into our ever-expanding story archives and discovered that yes, there is! Here’s what we came up with…
A Story for Every Month of the Year
• January – You have two options for this most challenging month of the year. You can embrace the bitter cold and cosy up under a blanket with a snowy story, like the Inuit tale, The Polar Bear Son (from Storytime Issue 16). Alternatively, you can rebel against it, book your summer holiday and fill your life with colour. If you fall into this camp, we recommend Storytime Issue 4‘s vibrant Aborigine myth The Rainbow Snake.
• February – Whether you pay attention to Valentine’s Day or not, you can’t deny that it lifts an otherwise dreary month at the tail-end of winter. With a vengeful goddess, a magical palace, and a series of challenges to face, the Roman myth Cupid and Psyche is action-packed enough to satisfy even the most romance-averse young reader. It’s also probably the inspiration for Beauty and the Beast. We featured it in Storytime Issue 17.
• March – Though Easter doesn’t always fall in March, excitement is certainly building for the spring holiday and the thought of chocolate eggs galore. Though we have an Easter story coming up soon (The Easter Crocodile in Storytime Issue 43), we recommend a vintage classic: The Velveteen Rabbit by Margery Williams Bianco. It appeared in Storytime Issue 9 with illustrations by Lisa Sheehan. (Read an interview with Lisa here.)
• April – We can’t think of any better way to start this month than with William Wordsworth’s spirit-lifting celebration of spring, Daffodils. Follow it with a daffodil walk and see how many nodding golden heads you can spot. We featured a learn-off-by-heart version of this famous poem in Storytime Issue 31.
• May – May is the trickster month. It can’t quite decide whether it wants to be warm or not. Just when you’re lulled into a false sense of summery security, it pours with rain. The perfect story to sum it up is the fable The Wind and the Sun from Storytime Issue 12, which is battle of the elements. Read an interview with its illustrator Luke Flowers here.
• June – The days are longer, the weather’s fine and it’s time for adventure. Alfie the Pirate sails the seas of his own back garden and takes on his greatest enemy, Rufus the Wretched in this new story, which appeared in Storytime Issue 30. It will appeal to little explorers everywhere.
• July – With thoughts turning to summer holidays and seaside adventures, stoke the excitement with a story set by the sea. We like the fable The Crab Walk (Storytime Issue 24) for its silly humour and bright illustrations. We also recommend the poem Minnie and Winnie by Alfred Lord Tennyson for its depiction of children sleeping in a seashell. Read it in Storytime Issue 23.
• August – If you’re staying at home for the summer holidays, use stories as your escape route to exotic climes. The perfect story for this is the Hawaiian myth The Volcano Goddess, which has wall to wall tropical illustrations. By the time you’ve finished reading it, you’ll feel like you’ve been there. Find it in Storytime Issue 36.)
• September – Back to school can be both exciting and daunting. Lighten the mood with one of our school stories. We recommend I Want to Be a Pencil Sharpener by Eszter Molnar in Storytime Issue 35. It’s a story about being yourself – something worth reminding every child at the beginning of a school year.
• October – It’s spooky season and plenty of witches, pumpkins and giants have graced the pages of Storytime since we launched. However, for atmosphere and because it’s a classic folktale, the story we’d go for this month is The Fire Fairy (Storytime Issue 14). It’s also a cautionary (but not too scary) tale for children who don’t go to bed when they should.
• November – The seasons pass and autumn fades into winter. The Queen of Winter is an old Scottish legend, which is not heard or read nearly often enough. It describes how winter comes and how it refuses to go and, best of all, it reminds you that it will be spring again before you know it. It appeared in Storytime Issue 15.
• December – The year draws to a close with dreams of a white Christmas, festive excitement and lots of opportunities for snuggly storytimes. We recommend the wonderful folktale The Red Mitten (from Storytime Issue 27), which features a cute cast of animal characters. Or, if you want a classic, there’s no better poem than Clement Clarke Moore’s A Visit from St Nicholas – the star of Storytime Issue 40.
How about starting each month with one of these stories? If you don’t have all of the issues listed above, you can pick them up from our Back Issue Shop. Why not get together with your child to make up your own story or poem inspired by a particular month of the year? Or a story for every month – it can be short! We’d love to see what you come up with.
Happy reading all year round!