Sing Books with Emily, the Blog

All God’s Critters, a Singable Book

Posted on: January 3, 2010

“All God’s Critters” (words and music by Bill Staines) is always a one of the top, top Singable Picture Books in the Sing Books with Emily repertoire.  It is requested by young and old and has given me much joy to share with many audiences who tap their toes and sing along.  I especially love to embellish the fun with my foot tambourine and kazoo.

all god's critters
All God’s Critters

Words and Music by Bill Staines
Illustrated by Kadir Nelson

Before the song begins, I usually tell my friends that there ill be an instrumental break during the song at which time they can play their “pretend” kazoos (since most folks don’t have one in their pockets) or they can squawk in time like a chicken.

The chicken squawking is a particular favorite of mine.  We added it to the proceedings because I remembered how when my children were very little and they cried in the car and if my dad happened to be visiting, he would make a hilarious show of chicken squawking and the children would stop crying to try and figure out what was going on and by the time they figured it out they would have forgotten why they were crying and we would all go on our merry way.  It was like a miracle. I figured that chicken deserved a place in the choir, too!


I’ve seen the song listed variously as “All God’s Creatures,” “All God’s Critters,” “A Place in the Choir,” and “The Animal Song.”  All those titles got a place in the choir, for whatever you call it, this song will have you stopping your feet and clapping your paws.


The earliest recording I could find of Bill Staines singing his song is on his 1983 album “Bridges.”

Recorded live in a coffee-house, “A Place in the Choir,” is sung on Track 4, with the audience singing along.  Track 5 gives you Bill Staines the spoken word story-teller as he recounts the story behind the humorous line “And the Porcupine talks to himself.”

Yodeling is one of those art forms (like clogging and marching bands) that instantly, maybe a little weirdly, creates an inspired lump in my throat.  It is a delight to learn that Bill Staines is an award-winning yodeler and you get to hear him yodel on this album, “The Happy Yodel,” Track 6.  Oh, JOY!

Besides the terrific songs, stories and yodels, Bill Staines is also one fantastic folk vocalist and guitar picker.  I wish to have known about him sooner, but I’m glad to know who he is now.


For a marvelous video and example of a porcupine talking to himself:


Words and Music by Bill Staines

All God’s critters got a place in the choir.
Some sing low, some sing higher.
Some sing out loud on the telephone wire,
Some just clap their hands, or paws, or anything they got. Now…

Listen to the bass, it’s the one on the bottom,
Where the bullfrog croaks and the hippopotamus
Moans and groans with a big to-do.
And the old cow just goes, “Moooooooo.”

The dog and the cat they take up the middle,
While the honeybee hums and the cricket fiddles.
The donkey brays and the pony neighs,
And the old coyote howls.

All God’s critters got a place in the choir.
Some sing low, some sing higher.
Some sing out loud on the telephone wire,
Some just clap their hands, or paws, or anything they got. Now…

Listen to the top where the little birds sing
On the melodies with the high notes ringing.
The hoot owl hollers over everything,
And the jaybird disagrees.

Singin’ in the nighttime, singin’ in the day,
The little duck quacks, then he’s on his way.
The possum ain’t got much to say
And the porcupine talks to himself.

All God’s critters got a place in the choir.
Some sing low, some sing higher.
Some sing out loud on the telephone wire,
Some just clap their hands, or paws, or anything they got. Now…

It’s a simple song of livin’ sung everywhere,
By the ox and the fox and the grizzly bear,
The grumpy alligator and the hawk above,
The sly raccoon and the turtledove.

(Repeat 3 times)
All God’s critters got a place in the choir.
Some sing low, some sing higher.
Some sing out loud on the telephone wire,
Some just clap their hands, or paws, or anything they got. Now…


Mr. Staines released another recording of the song on his children’s album “Happy Wanderer.”  The song is titled “A Place in the Choir,” Track 14.

A Place In The Choir

You can see Bill Staines himself singing the song on YouTube:

For more information on Bill Staines and his music, visit

An informative Bill Staines biography:

I love that the song inspired a quilt artist to create “Critter Quilts”


Kadir Nelson has illustrated a colorful, romping, theatrical version of the song. The animals take center stage and let their spirits fly.  Singing this heart winging song with this joyous book never fails to bring sunshine into a room.

all god's critters
All God’s Critters

Words and Music by Bill Staines
Illustrated by Kadir Nelson


See a video of illustrator Kadir Nelson talking about his work and painting the pictures for “All God’s Critters:”’s-Critters/Bill-Staines/9780689869594

Kadir Nelson: All God’s Critters

Kadir Nelson’s Website:


The great illustrator Margot Zemach has also given the song a visual treatment.

All God's Critters Got a Place in the Choir (Picture Puffins)
All God’s Critters Got a Place in the Choir
Words and music by Bill Staines
Illustrted by Margot Zemach


Besides Staines’ wonderful recordings, some terrific renditions can be found on i-tunes, most notably by

  • Peter, Paul and Mary (from their album “In These Times”)
  • Mack Bailey (from his album “Friends,”  this one is my personal favorite recording)
  • John McCutcheon (from his album “Howjadoo”)


A friend made a sing-along track of the song for me, so that the arrangement would exactly fit the text in Kadir Nelson’s illustrated version of the song.  I asked that he play the chorus at the end three times through, the second time with no piano/melody, so that I could play my kazoo there and so that anyone who had learned the chorus could sing out loud and proud.  Singing this book makes for some foot stomping fun.

“All God’s Critters” is one of the songs we selected to be part of
Oh, What a Beautiful Day: Sing Books with Emily, the Cabaret.”

My Song Craft Worksheet is part of my performance preparation process,

 Emily’s Song Craft Worksheet

Because the first section of the Song Craft Worksheet involves background research on the song, I’ll share the answers with you so you can know about the song, too.  The more about the song you know (both concrete facts and less tangible artistic choices), the more “authority,” and heart and soul you can put into the singing and sharing of the song with others.  If you are interested in improving your artistic abilities for singing songs in any capacity, just simply filling out the Song Craft Worksheet is a great place to start!

1 Q: Who wrote the words?
1 A: Bill Staines

2Q: Who wrote the music?
2A: Bill Staines

3Q: When was the song written?
3A: So far as I can tell, the early 1980’s

4Q: At what point in the lyricists’ and composer’s career was the song written?
4A: Early

5Q: What is the song from?
5A: It’s a stand alone folks song written by Bill Staines.

6Q: If from a show, what character sang it?
6A: NA

7Q: If from a show, from what situation does the song arise?  Why does the character sing the song?  What function does the song/character play in the story?
7A: On Bill Staine’s coffeeshop live performance recording, he tells a story of how he came to write the line about the Porcupine talking to himself…it’s very funny.  Plus, the song is filled with the characters of God’s critters and their particular ways of being.

8Q:  What other contextual elements of the song are significant?
8A: Children love this song!

9Q: Was the song written for a particular singer?  Why?
9A: I assume Mr. Staines wrote this song for himself to sing.

10Q: If not from a show, why did the songwriter write the song?
10A: I would love to ask him this…

11Q: What do you feel the lyricist is trying to say?
11A: I feel like Mr. Stains is making the point that God loves all his creatures equally and that everyone has an important part to play in life.  Everyone matters.

12Q: Does the song tell a story or just express feelings or ideas?
12A: This song does tell the story of animals expressing themselves in unique ways, but the song really convey the idea that every person (and creature) has a part to play and a song to sing.

13Q:  Who else has recorded this song:
13A: Bill Staines, Peter Paul and Mary, Mack Bailey, John McCutcheon, Emily Leatha Everson, Don Sanders (and many others)

If you are looking for recordings of this song, a number of titles abound:
All God’s Critters
All God’s Creatures
A Place in the Choir

The rest of the questions are personal and I will spare you those!


On “All God’s Critters” and the kazoo…

When I developed the arrangement for singing “All God’s “All God’s Critters,” I asked that the music repeat the chorus 3 times at the end to make room for a kazoo solo during the second repeat.  I’m like a kid in a candy shop getting to kazoo along and the look of delight on faces is so wonderful!  Nobody ever really expects a kazoo and a little unexpected whimsy is always good to bring a little joy into someone’s day.



With Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day approaching, I tried to tie a few of our songs to his legacy of peaceful resolution of conflict and his championship of equal rights.

One of the songs that seems appropriate for to honor King’s legacy is “All God’s Critters Got a Place in the Choir.”  I was searching for appropriate words to explain this when a girl named Manou (who, amazingly, speaks English as a second language) spoke up and said that the song

“‘All God’s Critters’ means that every person has something cool to do.”  

Spot on!

Related Articles

The Illustrated Songs of Bill Staines

National Kazoo Day



A list of SPBs celebrating the life, legacy and January 16 National Holiday  of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.


3 Responses to "All God’s Critters, a Singable Book"


I think MGM likes this so much bc it’s like the country music her mama listens too! I love it!!

I have been singing “All God’s Critters” in my performances since the early ’80’s and I never get tired of singing it!

hello! that is wonderful news! i absolutely LOVE sinigng the song for kids, especially with kadir nelson’s wonderful illustration and a kazoo solo at the end. kids love it! and i never get tired of singing it either…but it’s only been a year or so for me. best wishes and thanks for your comment! yours truly, emily

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