Sing Books with Emily, the Blog

“Over the River and Through the Wood” A Singable Book, Lyrics, History and Sing Along Tracks

Posted on: November 20, 2009

Over the River and Through the Wood ” is the classic Thanksgiving song.  It is too bad that Thanksgiving has not inspired more!  But we can have lots of fun singing this one.

This poem can be found in a number of illustrated books and poetry compilations for children.


Over the River and Through the Wood
Traditional Tune
Poem by Lydia Maria Child
Illustrated by Matt Tavares
See a YouTube about Matt Tavares’ book, here:
Post for this special illustration:


Over the River and Through the Wood
Traditional Tune
Poem By Lydia Maria Child
Illustrated by Christopher Manson

I love the woodcut illustrations in Christopher Manson’s outing, published in 1993.  This volume also includes an informative “Note About the Text.”  The colors are rich and give fanciful representation to an idealized 19th century  village Thanksgiving.   In one two-page spread, children ice skate on a frozen stream.  In another, the dapple-gray horse pulls the red sleigh through a covered bridge.  This version, however does not include the entire poem.


Over the River and Through the Wood
Traditional Tune
Poem By Lydia Maria Child
Illustrated by Brinton Turkle

A book illustrated by Brinton Turkle  (1974) has a fuller representation of the poem, with stanzas that I have not found anyplace else.  These pencil sketches and watercolors are realistic and pretty.  Although this book is out of print, you can find it at used book sellers online.


Over the River and Through the Wood
Traditional Tune
Poem By Lydia Maria Child
Illustrated by David Catrow

I spied an illustration by David Catrow, who is a master of illustrating humorous song parodies.  It looks like a family trying to make it through holiday traffic, in a car that is packed to the rivets.


 Childcraft, Volume 1, The Poems of Early Childhood (1954)
Published by Field Enterprises Educational Corporation
Edited by J. Morris Jones
Words and Music by Various Artists
Illustrated by Various Artists
(This amazingly wonderful poetry compilation, Volume 1 of 15 Volumes of the Childcraft set, is filled with poetry that can be sung.  The illustrations now appear wonderfully vintage, by numerous artists.  If you can find a copy of this book, you will not be disappointed in its contents)
Thanksgiving Day” (AKA “Over the River and Through the Wood“), written by Lydia Maria Child and sung to a traditional tune is printed and illustrated on p. 142

An Extra Special Outing…


Over the River and Through the Wood
Traditional Tune
Poem by Lydia Maria Child
Illustrated by Matt Tavares

Matt Tavares has created a fantastic version of the song “Over the River and Through the Wood.”  The pictures of the snowy 19th century New England town and landscape are beautiful, setting the blues and grays of snow and horse with the vivid reds of the sleigh and brick houses.  He’s livened these lyric illustrations also with a story of a dog sometimes teasing and sometimes chasing after the sleigh holding in his teeth a boy’s hat that had flown off in the wind.

When I first saw the book, I didn’t buy it, put off by the book’s subtitle, “The New England Boy’s Song about Thanksgiving Day.”  I wondered why the illustrator would make it a song for a boy, girls can enjoy it, too!  But, turns out, this is Lydia Maria Child’s own subtitle for her poem.  I hope girls won’t thing this book can’t be for them, too…it certainly can be!  It’s a song and book everyone can enjoy.

Besides the great pictures, this book gets special accolades from me for illustrating the entire poem (not just a few select verses).  The whole poem is here and it can all be sung to the familiar tune we all know…though, with some verses, you’ve got to learn the rhythms to fit the words.


OVER THE RIVER (a new ride)
My post about this new illustration of the song:


When singing this song, some of the verses can be tricky, because you have to alter the rhythm a little to fit in the words.  After a little practice, you’ll get it.

This song was originally written as a poem by Lydia Maria Child in the 1840’s and seems to have been set to this jolly traditional tune later in the 19th century.

Lydia Maria Child

Read an informative biography of Lydia Maria Child here:


Below are the poem’s original 12 verses.  Most illustrated versions of the poem, pick and choose from these, but do not include the entire original.  I found the complete poem online at:

Poem by Lydia Maria Child

Over the river, and through the wood,
To Grandfather’s house we go;
The horse knows the way,
To carry the sleigh,
Through the white and drifted snow.

Over the river, and through the wood,
To Grandfather’s house away!
We would not stop
For doll or top, For it is Thanksgiving Day.

Over the river, and through the wood,
Oh, how the wind does blow!
It stings the toes,
And bites the nose,
As over the ground we go.

Over the river, and through the wood,
With a clear blue winter sky,
The dogs do bark,
And children hark,
As we go jingling by.

Over the river, and through the wood,
To have a first-rate play –
Hear the bells ring,
“Ting a ling ding!”
Hurray for Thanksgiving Day!

Over the river, and through the wood,
No matter for winds that blow
Or if we get
The sleigh upset
Into a bank of snow.

Over the river, and through the wood,
To see little John and Ann;
We will kiss them all,
And play snowball,
And stay as long as we can.

Over the river, and through the wood,
Trot fast my dapple grey!
Spring over the ground,
Like a hunting-hound,
For ’tis Thanksgiving Day!

Over the river, and through the wood,
And straight through the barnyard gate;
We seem to go
Extremely slow,
It is so hard to wait!

Over the river, and through the wood –
Old Jowler hears our bells;
He shakes his pow,
With a loud bow-wow,
And thus the news he tells.

Over the river, and through the wood,
When Grandmother sees us come,
She will say, “O, dear,
The children are here,
Bring pie for everyone.”

Over the river, and through the wood,
Now Grandmother’s cap I spy!
Hurrah for the fun!
Is the pudding done?
Hurrah for the pumpkin pie!


For singing along with an instrumental track (although this is another traditional tune which is nicely sung a capella), I suggest track 9 on Smoky Mountain Band’s “Christmas in the Smoky Mountains,”  which you can find on i-tunes. The track is played exactly to sing the full 12 verses of the poem.

Preview the song, here:


A page for the Sing Books with Emily SINGABLE ADVENT CALENDAR

I have found this oldie but goodie on a few Christmas albums, so I thought we could enjoy singing it once again (after Thanksgiving) for Advent Holiday enjoyment!

SBWE Advent Calendar Over the River (Christmas)
Over the River and Through the Wood
Traditional Tune
Poem by Lydia Maria Child
To view or print the SBWE Singable Advent Calendar sheet for “Over the River and Through the Wood,” click here:
SBWE Advent Calendar Over the River (Christmas)

Addendum, 12/2/2015

In full disclosure, the publisher of this adorable book sent me a copy and I have researched it and added my thoughts.  There is much to know about the original song, a lot of which you can find in my blog post about OVER THE RIVER AND THROUGH THE WOOD.

This adventurous read-aloud, or sing-aloud, adaptation is sure to delight anyone who takes the time to enjoy it with a kid.

over the river ashman smith
Original Poem by Lydia Maria Child
Sing to Traditional Tune
New Words by Linda Ashman
Illustrated by Kim Smith

Author’s webpage for his book tells her thoughts on adapting the words:

Illustrator’s webpage for this book has beautiful examples of colorful two page spreads from the book:

Emily’s Thoughts:
It’s a picture book.  It’s a 5 act play.  It’s a sitcom.  It’s a song.  This rewarding book offers many delights.  You can sing it, read it aloud, enjoy the  colorfully animated illustrations, celebrate diversity, and revel in the traditional American family reunion at Thanksgiving.

Grandma and Grandpa invite their four, far-flung children and diverse families to Thanksgiving dinner and request that each bring a pie.

Act One:
Family One trudges through snow to pack the car with all the family’s stuff, kids, dogs and two apple pies.  Uh-oh.  They run out of gas.  Neighhhh!  They get rescued by a horse drawn sleigh.

Act Two:
Family Two hustles their children across town, on the subway and to the commuter train. Uh-oh.  No rental cars when they arrive at their destination.  Luckily, the horse drawn sleigh just happens to jingle on by right on time.  Neighhhh!

Act Three:
Family Three races through the airport, catches a plane and makes it to the shuttle bus that gets a flat tire.  They get lucky with the horse drawn sleigh, too. Neighhh!

Act Four:
Family Four takes an island ferry to the mainland, catches a hot air balloon and meets up with the sleigh now fully loaded with four families, all their stuff, and all those pies.  Amazingly, the horse still smiles.  Neighhhh!

Act Five:
The family greets the grandparents on the farm house front porch and step inside for a rollicking feast.  At the end, the horse gets a well deserved apple treat as a thanks for that day’s big job getting everyone where they wanted to be.

You’ll know the tune, surely, maybe even without knowing that you know it!  My advice, if you plan to sing it, is to sing it ssssllllllooooowww.  I’ve sung this for a few groups of kids and you’ve got to go slow for the kids to have time to take in the many details of the expressive pictures.  Also, the text is filled with delicious, chewy words that can act as tongue twisters if you go too fast.  Go slow and revel in delightful stories unfolding in the illustrations and the rich vocabulary you can sing to a familiar tune.

Look at this adorable performance of the song adapted by Emily Arrow.


A scene from OVER THE RIVER AND THROUGH THE WOODS with Ms. Anctil and Mr. Mitchell’s classes, 11/3/2017

Addendum, 4/18/2018

This school year, I was very lucky to receive a teacher’s grant from the Tuckahoe Elementary School PTA.  With part of that I purchased jingle sticks so kids could help me jingle along while we sing JINGLE BELLS.
jingle stick
Jingle Sticks

I’ve had some experience with different kinds of jingle sticks and these are excellent.  About 10″ long and with 21 bells, they aren’t to big or too small and have an excellent hardy sleighbell sounding jingle.  I have put these jingle sticks to use with songs like JINGLE BELLS, WALKING IN A WINTER WONDERLAND, and OVER THE RIVER AND THROUGH THE WOOD.  I ask for volunteers and kids jingle away while we sing the songs.

Related Posts


A 2017/2018 School Year Tuckahoe Elementary School PTA Teacher’s Grant (and what I got with it)



An list of  singable poems from compilations of poetry for children

A list of individually illustrated poems that have been set to music and can be sung


A list of SPBs with fun and sneakily educational content.  The kids won’t even know they’re learning!


Singable Picture Books for Winter
Some of these are sung at Christmastime, but this is a list of songs about Winter that you can sing all season long!



A Collection of Singable Picture Books that celebrate CHRISTMAS!


A Song List to Help Us Celebrate Thanksgiving!

The singable poems in Childcraft, Volume 1, The Poems of Early Childhood (1954)


Over the River &Through the Wood (a Holiday Adventure), a new version of an old Thanksgiving Fave


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