Sing Books with Emily, the Blog

Carnival of the Animals (not necessarily singable, but with music, pictures, and poems)

Posted on: May 3, 2012

Carnival of the Animals, composed by Camille Saint-Saens is one of the greatest delights of childhood…at least for an adult looking back on childhood.

A host of clever people (including Ogden Nash, John Lithgow, and Jack Prelutsky) have written verses to go with the music (though, sadly, none which I have found so far can actually be SUNG with the music, maybe someday) and then have worked with illustrators to create wonderful pictorial representations of the works, including:


Carnival of the Animals
Music by Camille Saint-Saens
Poems by John Lithgow
Illustrated by Boris Kulikov

John Lithgow reads some of his verses:


The Carnival of the Animals
Poems by Jack Prelutsky
Composed by Camille Saint-Saens
Illustrated by Mary GrandPre


Carnival of the Animals wiki:

The whole orchestral work heard on YouTube:
This video post includes a wonderful essay about the work and its components.


My favorite recording with narration for “Carnival of the Animals” is by Leonard Bernstein:

Leonard Bernstein’s narration takes the listener through the piece, section by section and discusses how Saint-Saens put the music together.  Mr. Bernstein does not talk down to the child listener, but engages in a real discussion.  Knowing the thought process, instrumental choices, and musical allusions used by Saint-Saens, brings “Carnival of the Animals” alive, making the listening all the more fun and exciting.

Preview or purchase the recording here:

Another terrific recording:

Delightfully, I just found a recording of Carnival of the Animals which includes the inventive poet Ogden Nash’s verses, narrated by none other than Noel Coward:

Link to purchase or preview the verses, here:
Someone ought to illustrate THESE!


I have a little fantasy to someday put all these items together, the picture books, orchestral recording, and Bernstein’s narration to read each poem, narration information and view each animal’s illustrations by various artists, sauntering through the zoo section by section.



Behold the Bold Unbrellaphant (and other poems)
Poems by Jack Prelutsky
Underscore Music by Lucas Richman
Illustrated by Carin Berger


Behold the Bold Umbreallaphant (Poems by Jack Prelutsky, Music by Lucas Richman)
Carnival of the Animals (Poems by Jack Prelutsky, Music by Camille Saint-Saens)
Performed by the San Diego Symphony Orchestra
Click here to preview the tracks:


On a related note, Ogden Nash wrote some animal verses (alas, are they the same?) that have been set to music by Vernon Duke and in another volume, illustrated by Etienne Delessert (making for an exquisite, but as yet unexplored, “singable” opportunity):

Ogden Nash’s Musical Zoo
Poems by Ogden Nash
Music by Vernon Duke
Illustrated by Frank Owen


Ogden Nash’s Zoo

Poems by Ogden Nash
Illustrated by Etienne Delessert
(See “Ogden Nash’s Musical Zoo” for tunes by Vernon Duke)


A very clever set of animal songs, written by the British song-writing team Michael Flanders and Donald Swann (and at least one of the songs,
The Hippopotamus Song, has been found to be illustrated,):

The Bestiary of Flanders & Swann (vinyl album cover shown)
Words and Music by Michael Flanders and Donald Swann

The Hippopotamus Song has become one of my favorite Singable Picture Book songs,


The Hippopotamus Song
Words by Michael Flanders
Music by Donald Swann and Michael Flanders
Illustrated by Nadine Bernard Westcott
ISBN: 0-316-28557-9
This book features printed sheet music

Related Posts

The Singable Picture Books of John Lithgow


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