Sing Books with Emily, the Blog

Over the Rainbow, a Singable Picture Book

Posted on: March 8, 2010

I have been thinking a lot about “Over the Rainbow” lately.

Over the Rainbow
Words by E.Y. Harburg
Music by Harold Arlen
Illustrated by Eric Puybaret
Published by Imagine Publishing Inc.
ISBN 978-1-936140-00-8

This book comes with a CD of Judy Collins singing “Over the Rainbow.”  The book opens with, and Judy Collins sings, the rarely heard song introduction.


Over the Rainbow
Words and Music by E. H. Harburg and Harold Arlen
Illustrated by Julia Noonan


Over the Rainbow
Words by E. Y. Harburg
Music by Harold Arlen
From the Movie Musical “Wizard of Oz”

When all the world is a hopeless jumble
And the raindrops tumble all around,
Heaven opens a magic lane.

When all the clouds darken up the sky way,
There’s a rainbow highway to be found,
Leading from your window pane
To a place behind the sun,
Just a step beyond the rain.

Somewhere over the rainbow,
Way up high,
There’s a land that I heard of once in a lullaby.

Somewhere over the rainbow
Skies are blue
And the dreams that you dare to dream
Really do come true.

Some day I’ll wish upon a star
And wake up where the clouds are far behind me.
Where troubles melt like lemon drops,
Away above the chimney tops,
that’s where you’ll find me.

Somewhere over the rainbow,
Bluebirds fly.
Birds fly over the rainbow,
Why then, oh why can’t I?

If happy little bluebirds fly
Beyond the rainbow
Why, oh, why can’t I?


Though the song’s introduction is not sung in the movie, I do so love the song’s set-up in the movie.

Auntie Em tells Dorothy to help the family prepare for the coming cyclone by getting out of the way and going somewhere she won’t get into any trouble.  Dorothy says…

(Spoken) A place where there isn’t any trouble.  Do you suppose there is such a place Toto?  There must be.  It’s not a place you can get to by a boat or a train.  It’s far far away…behind the moon, beyond the stars…(Sung) Somewhere over the rainbow…


Though “Over the Rainbow” is a standard in popular culture, I never get sick of hearing it.  Now, Eric Puybaret’s new illustration for “Over the Rainbow” has got me all excited about singing it again.  The rich jewel toned rainbow colors Puybaret chooses inspire me.  They show joie de vivre and a free-spirit in a song that is so often played with longing to the point of anguish.  This book captures a sentiment that became one of my mother’s central messages to me, “You can achieve anything if you set your mind to it!”

I like to point out to the children that, to me, the last lines mean, “If the bluebirds, or anyone, can make their dreams come true, then I can make my dreams come true, too!”  It doesn’t have to be a sad song of painful longing.  It CAN be a sweet (just a dash wistful) song about an epiphany of self empowerment, always mixed beautifully with a purity of heart.


I think it is interesting that two outstanding and sadly short-lived artists, Israel Kamakawiwo’ole and Eva Cassidy, captured this empowerment and purity of heart in their brilliant and amazingly singular arrangements of  “Over the Rainbow.”

Sing-along with Israel Kamakawiwo’ole’s “Somewhere Over The Rainbow/What A Wonderful World”

Due to claims of copyright infringement this video was taken off of YouTube.  I don’t know the answer to how to balance these things, but it’s too bad that such a thing denies the public access to this wonderful performance.

A link to Eva Cassidy’s “Over the Rainbow,” here she sings live at Blues Alley in Washington, DC:

Due to claims of copyright infringement this video was taken off of YouTube.  I don’t know the answer to how to balance these things, but it’s too bad that such a thing denies the public access to this wonderful performance.

The original by Judy Garland (it still gives me goosebumps)

Due to claims of copyright infringement this video was taken off of YouTube.  I don’t know the answer to how to balance these things, but it’s too bad that such a thing denies the public access to this wonderful performance.


Ginger Sands includes “Over the Rainbow” on her CD “The Gift of Make Believe.”  Sands’ wonderful collection of children’s poetry (and this song) set to music includes vocal and instrumental tracks for each poem.  The vocals for “Over the Rainbow” are on Track 10.  The instrumental sing-along is found on Track 20.

Hear musical clips or buy the tracks at many online music sellers, including Amazon:


The longing and wonder in the song, and the beauty and simplicity of the melody, make “Over the Rainbow” universally appealing.  But, it is that each of us strives for something specific to who we are and our  unique  purpose in the world that keeps this song forever fascinating.


“Over the Rainbow” is one of the songs I sang in my show:
Oh, What a Beautiful Day: Sing Books with Emily, the Cabaret.”

Completing my Song Craft Worksheet is part of my process for crafting a song for performance.

 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!  After the background research, the rest of the Song Craft Worksheet gets VERY personal…don’t worry!  I won’t bore you with that.

1 Q: Who wrote the words?
1 A: E. Y. Harburg

2Q: Who wrote the music?
2A: Harold Arlen

3Q: When was the song written?
3A: 1938

4Q: At what point in the lyricists’ and composer’s career was the song written?
4A: For both Mr. Arlen and Mr. Harburg (who was a little older) this song was written around the beginning of the middle of their careers.

5Q: What is the song from?
5A: Wizard of Oz

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

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: Dorothy is feeling pushed aside by her family, it is a song of intense longing of a young woman to break out of childhood and to make her dreams come true.

8Q:  What other contextual elements of the song are significant?
8A: Dorothy is deeply loved by her Aunt and Uncle who look after her and Dorothy clearly loves them as well, but she is an imaginative child with deep feelings, hopes and dreams beyond the farmstead where she has spent her childhood.  She is just on the verge of becoming a woman.

9Q: Was the song written for a particular singer?  Why?
9A: The song was written for the fabulous 15 year old Judy Garland to sing in the role of Judy for the 1938 film “Wizard of Oz.”

10Q: If not from a show, why did the songwriter write the song?
10A: NA

11Q: What do you feel the lyricist is trying to say?
11A: The longing of someone who feels stuck in a situation to break free and make dreams come true.

12Q: Does the song tell a story or just express feelings or ideas?
12A: This song very elegantly uses the telling of a story, describing a place the singer wants to go to express feelings of hope and longing.

13Q: Who else has recorded this song:
13A: “Over the Rainbow” has been beautifully recorded by hundreds of wonderful performers including:  Judy Garland, Israel Kamakawiwo’ole, Eva Cassidy, Frank Sinatra, Sarah Vaughn, Ella Fitzgerald, Jane Monheit, Johnny Mathis and Ray Charles, Harry Nilsson, Carly Simon…

The rest of the questions require VERY personal answers and I will spare you those!


A Wikipedia article about “Over the Rainbow,”

Phyllis Diller and the Wizard of Oz

Incidentally…as a curio of my past, I got to perform in a production of “The Wizard of Oz” with Phyllis Diller in the summer of 1992.  I was in the “Adult Chorus” (playing everything from a Munchkin’s voice into a microphone off stage, to a Jitterbug, to one of those Wookie things in a huge fake fur costume) and Phyllis Diller played the Wicked Witch of the West.  It was fabulous fun.  Plus, they let her add in a few “gags” during the show.  She was absolutely GREAT.

My daughter Eloise checkin’ out the gags.

Eloise with The Wig

Sweet Eloise took this picture of her mom with the gag file.

Smithsonian’s Exhibit webpage for Phyllis Diller’s Gag File:

Article about the aquisition of Phyllis Diller’s Gag File (card catalogue of jokes) in Smithsonian Magazine 2007:

Link to Smithsonian’s page about Phyllis Diller’s Gag File:

Link to blog post about the file:

Video on Smithsonian Channel about Phyllis Diller’s Gag File:
(This really is a fabulous video!)

Addendum 11/23/2012

One of the universally favorite songs/Singable Picture Books of the children is “Over the Rainbow,”


Over the Rainbow
Words and Music by Harold Arlen and E. Y. Harburg
Illustrated by Eric Puybaret
Published by Imagine Publishing Inc.
ISBN 978-1-936140-00-8

For the most part, slower-ballad-y songs are an iffy proposition with the younger kids, but most all of them respond to this one.  I never get sick of the song.  It is so beautiful, but really reaches in to the longing in each of us to break free of the constraints of whatever it is in our lives that ties us down and fly free and live life in color.

The illustration by Eric Puybaret is part of the song’s success, capturing, with gorgeous color, the freedom and imagination, and whimsy we seek.

I was listening to one of my favorite radio programs, Studio 360, a month or so ago and was thrilled that they did one of their “American Icons” presentations on The Wizard of Oz (book by Frank L. Baum) which enlightened me evermore on the mysteries and wonders and delights of not just the song, but the story that inspired it.

Hear the Studio 360 American Icon program on The Wizard of Oz, here:

Addendum 11/23/2012

Around the same time, PBS American Masters series offered a wonderful tribute to Judy Garland.  A good portion of this documentary is devoted to the filming of the movie Wizard of Oz and some wonderful things said about Judy Garland’s masterful original rendition of the song, “Over the Rainbow”


Addendum 11/23/2012

I remember visiting the Library of Congress a number of years ago, stumbling upon an exhibit about Frank L. Baum’s Wizard of Oz books.

A few interesting resources from the Library of Congress:

Read THE WONDERFUL WIZARD OF OZ on the Library of Congress website:



“To See the Wizard” at LOC:

Addendum 12/6/2012

I LOVE the DRAW ME A SONG posters by Parisian artist Nour Tohme.  The “Over the Rainbow” poster is one of my favorites.

She put the poster on the “Draw Me a Song” Facebook page along with a wonderful quote from Judy Garland:

I’ve always taken ‘The Wizard of Oz’ very seriously, you know. I believe in the idea of the rainbow. And I’ve spent my entire life trying to get over it.
Judy Garland

draw me a song over the rainbow
Over the Rainbow (DRAWMEASONG.COM)
Words and Music by Harold Arlen and E. Y. Harburg
Illustrated by Nour Tohme (DRAWMEASONG.COM)

Nour Tohme’s Webpage:

Draw Me a Song Webpage

Addendum 3/19/2013

Eloise interprets Over the Rainbow in a picture she made:

EPG Over the Rainbow 2013 03 blog
Over the Rainbow
Art by Eloise Pauline Gleichenhaus (March 2013)


Addendum, 7/2/2014

2014 07 01 watercolor rainbow - Copy - Copy

Rainbow Watercolor by Eloise Gleichenhaus, July 2014
It is a nice compliment to both I Can Sing a Rainbow  and Over the Rainbow.

Addendum 9/1/2015

A lovely comment to this blog reminded of Ella Fitzgerald’s version of OVER THE RAINBOW, which also includes the song introduction.  As with everything Ella Fitgerald did, it is just so good:

Ella Fitzgerald’s version of OVER THE RAINBOW

Addendum, 4/19/2018

I am very grateful this year to have received a PTA Teachers grant, put in for me by the Kindergarten Team at Tuckahoe Elementary. Thank you very much Kindergarten Friends of Sing Books!

This illustrated songs is one of the materials that I acquired with the grant.  I wrote a grant report and this is my entry for the bluebird finger puppet that I got for audience participation when we sing OVER THE RAINBOW:

Bluebird Finger Puppet

One of my favorite illustrated songs to sing with kids is OVER THE RAINBOW, and not just because it is such a beautiful song. In all honesty, I do think that OVER THE RAINBOW  is a perfect song.  It is beautiful to listen to and relatable to the heart. It is a JOY to sing with a lovely melody, legato line, and wide open vowels to sing on. And the words.  Good heavens, those words which so perfectly capture intense longing to engage in life that one suspects dances in its technicolor glory right outside of what seems to be in reach.  But the songs also hints that one CAN find a way to reach those places.  A rainbow is a bridge and bridges cross divides and allow for crossings to new places.  And bluebirds fly over the rainbow.  The singer asks, “Why oh why can’t I?”  When I sing this, I don’t think, “Everyone else can do it, but I can’t.”  I think, “The bluebird can do it, so that means that I can, too.”

As achingly longing and sublime as the song is, it is also one of empowerment, the beginning of a plan.  As much as I’d like to EXPLAIN this to kids, I was thinking it might be more fun to demonstrate it.  So, I found this cute bluebird finger puppet.  Separately, I bought a rainbow soft sculpture from a wonderful person in Ibiza, Spain who makes rainbow items.  I’ll ask for two volunteers. One child will hold the rainbow and the other will have the bluebird.  I’ll ask all the children to to listen carefully for the lyrics “If happy little bluebirds fly beyond the rainbow…” and demonstrate the bluebird flying over the rainbow.

Maybe over time this demonstration will spark the notion that “the dreams that you dare to dream, really do come true” (with hard work, focus, persistence, and determination).

Related Posts

Sing Books with Emily (SBWE), Illustrated Songs of the Day:


Singable Picture Books of the Great American Songbook and Michael Feinstein’s Foundation for the Preservation of the Great American Songbook

Over the Rainbow…Additional Info




this list on Pinterest displays images of Singable Art, works of art that are about songs, support a song, or the subject of a song:


Eloise’s Homage to Singable Picture Books We Love to Sing Together




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