Sing Books with Emily, the Blog

THE LITTLE TURTLE: a Singable Illustrated Poem

Posted on: August 27, 2010

One of my favorite little songs to sing is The Little Turtle.

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Little Turtle Kovalski 01 - Copy edit
The Little Turtle
Poem by Vachel Lindsay
Traditional Tune
Illustrated by Maryann Kovalski

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LITTLE TURTLE for SBWE cover only
The Little Turtle
Poem by Vachel Linsay
Traditional Tune
Book Assembled by ELEG for SBWE

Sing THE LITTLE TURTLE in G with Emily

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SBWE SBS Little Turtle
The Little Turtle
Poem by Vachel Lindsay
Traditional Tune
Page Coordinated by ELEG for SBWE Songbook Series
To view or print this page, click here:
SBWE SBS Little Turtle

Sing THE LITTLE TURTLE in G with Emily

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SBWE SBS Little Turtle w chords
The Little Turtle Song Sheet w Guitar Chords
Poem by Vachel Lindsay
Traditional Tune with Chords by ELEG for SBWE SBS
Page Coordinated by ELEG for SBWE Songbook Series
To view or print this page, click here:
SBWE SBS Little Turtle w chords

Sing THE LITTLE TURTLE in G with Emily

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“The Little Turtle” is a singable poem, written by Vachel Lindsay:

The Little Turtle
Poem Vachel Lindsay

There was a little turtle.
He lived in a box.
He swam in a puddle.
He climbed on the rocks.

He snapped at a mosquito.
He snapped at a flea.
He snapped at a minnow.
And he snapped at me.

He caught the mosquito.
He caught the flea.
He caught the minnow.
But he didn’t catch me.

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In a few places, I found this subtitle for the poem:
“A Recitation for Martha Wakefield, Three Years Old”

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Sing-along with me, “Little Turtle” on the SingBooksWithEmily MySpace page:
http://www.myspace.com/singbookswithemily
(Just scroll down the list of songs in the song box and you’ll find it there!)

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The poem was first published in Mr. Lindsay’s book “The Golden Whales of California and Other Rhymes in the American Language” (New York: Macmillan, 1920): and then in his “Collected Poems” (New York: Macmillan, 1923).
http://rpo.library.utoronto.ca/poem/1308.html

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You will find “The Little Turtle” in oodles of compilations of children’s poetry, including:

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A Children’s Treasury of Poems
Illustrated by Linda Bleck
The Little Turtle is printed and illustrated in this book (which does not feature page numbers)

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A Family of Poems (My Favorite Poetry for Children)

Selected by Caroline Kennedy
Illustrated by Jon Muth
The Little Turtle is printed and illustrated on p.48

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Childcraft, Volume 1, The Poems of Early Childhood (1954)
Published by Field Enterprises Educational Corporation
Words and Music by Various Artists
Illustrated by Various Artists
The Little Turtle is printed and illustrated on p. 96
(The pictures above show the binding and title page)

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Found on p. 96 of Childcraft, Volume 1, The Poems of Early Childhood (1954)Illustrated by Priscilla Pointer

little turtle lindsey childcraft
The Little Turtle
Poem by Vachel Linsay
Traditional Tune
Illustrated by Priscilla Pointer
From: Childcraft, Volume 1, The Poems of Early Childhood (1954), p. 96
Sing LITTLE TURTLE with Emily, here:

https://soundcloud.com/singbookswithemily/there-was-a-little-turtle-eleg-2010

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Addendum, 6/13/2015

I love to sing THERE WAS A LITTLE TURTLE to the kids and so many of them seem to instinctively know it, even if they’ve never sung it before.  The other fun part of singing this at Tuckahoe Elementary is that the school mascot is a turtle and the school boasts a lovely courtyard that features a turtle pond (complete with 2 turtles) in the middle of the school.

With this in mind, every time we have sung the song with just the adorable song sheet in the past, I wished we had a whole book for it with wonderful pictures of turtles.  Wtih this in mind, I made a book.  Next step is sing-along music, but for now it works just fine to sing it a capella:

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LITTLE TURTLE for SBWE cover only
The Little Turtle/There Was a Little Turtle
Poem by Vachel Linsay
Traditional Tune
Book Assembled by ELEG for SBWE
Sing LITTLE TURTLE with Emily, here:

https://soundcloud.com/singbookswithemily/there-was-a-little-turtle-eleg-2010

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(You can use all the tunes mentioned in this post to sing this rhyme…it’s a two-for-one!)

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Read a detailed biography of poet Vachel Lindsay on the website of the Poetry Foundation:
http://www.poetryfoundation.org/archive/poet.html?id=80796

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A shorter, interesting biography on PoemHunter:
http://www.poemhunter.com/vachel-lindsay/biography/

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I found this online about John Alan Carpenter’s musical setting for “The Little Turtle,”
“Vachel Lindsay (1879-1931) had wanted Carpenter, a long-time friend, to set his verse for nearly a decade before Carpenter finally composed “The Little Turtle” in 1926. Carpenter, ever drawn to children’s verse, chose a rather uncharacteristic poem Lindsay had written as “a recitation for Martha Wakefield, three years old.” Pollack writes that the “tune is folkish but somewhat jazzed up, with snazzy syncopations in the vocal lines and blue notes in the accompaniment. It is a children’s song for the jazz age and one of Carpenter’s most delightful.” The song is unpublished.”
http://www.dramonline.org/albums/songs-of-john-alden-carpenter/notes

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But I just happened to have been familiar with this recording, which uses a similar tune, sung by a classical baritone, to the one I had learned for this song:
http://www.amazon.com/The-Little-Turtle/dp/B000QWYQ66/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&s=dmusic&qid=1282644296&sr=8-2

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You can also find a composition (sung by a woman who’s credit I couldn’t find…) for “The Little Turtle” on,

This is a fabulous CD with 90 songs delightfully and simply sung (so many children’s CDs over produce the songs, making them far too sugary and yuck). “90 Nifty Songs” has helped me learn or remember the tunes so MANY a snappy song.
The complete song list is on Peter Moses’s website:
http://www.petermoses.com/90niftysongs.htm

Peter Moses Website:
http://www.petermoses.com/

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Related Posts

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CHILDCRAFT
The singable poems in Childcraft, Volume 1, The Poems of Early Childhood (1954)
https://singbookswithemily.wordpress.com/2013/04/13/childcraft-poems-of-early-childhood-a-singable-collection-of-poetry/

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POETRY SINGABLE POETRY IN COMPILATIONS

An list of  singable poems from compilations of poetry for children
https://singbookswithemily.wordpress.com/2011/04/17/singable-poetry-a-list-of-poems-that-can-be-sung-from-illustrated-compilations-of-poetry-and-singable-picture-books/

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POETRY, SINGABLE POETRY IN INDIVIDUALLY ILLUSTRATED SINGABLE PICTURE BOOKS
A list of individually illustrated poems that have been set to music and can be sung
https://singbookswithemily.wordpress.com/2012/04/20/poems-individually-illustrated-spb/

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EDUCATIONAL CONTENT

A list of SPBs with fun and sneakily educational content.  The kids won’t even know they’re learning!
https://singbookswithemily.wordpress.com/2011/08/15/singable-picture-books-with-sneaky-educational-content/

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The Little Turtle, a Singable Poem Song Sheet from Childcraft, for Poetry Month
https://singbookswithemily.wordpress.com/2013/04/08/the-little-turtle-a-singable-poem-song-sheet-from-childcraft-for-poetry-month/

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A BOOK FOR LITTLE TURTLE
https://singbookswithemily.wordpress.com/2015/06/13/a-book-for-the-little-turtle/

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SING BOOKS WITH EMILY SONGBOOK SERIES HOST PAGE
https://singbookswithemily.wordpress.com/sbwe-song-book-series/

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SBWE Songbook Series: Poetry
https://singbookswithemily.wordpress.com/2016/01/25/sing-books-with-emily-songbook-series-poetry/

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SBWE Songbook Series: Little Songs
https://singbookswithemily.wordpress.com/2016/01/25/sing-books-with-emily-songbook-series-little-songs/

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SING-ALONG RESOURCES AND PRINTABLE MATERIALS
This is the place to find Print Materials Created by Emily
https://singbookswithemily.wordpress.com/sing-along-resources-2/

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An SBWE Song Book Series Sheet (with Guitar Chords) for THE LITTLE TURTLE

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