Sing Books with Emily, the Blog

Illustrated Songs in Emily’s Sing Books Repertoire that have Male Progagonists

Posted on: March 18, 2017

I’m going to be honest about my point of view.  I think girls need more role models in literature, theater, art and song.  This is not to take anything away from the boys!  Certainly not!  But through all of history, most of the characters in any works of art are male.  Girls need role models, too.  They certainly need more role models than they have.

For this list, and its companion list of songs with FEMALE PROTAGONISTS, I’m exploring my own repertoire for gender representation in songs.  Please note once more, this assembly of songs represents ONLY those from my personal repertoire (a representative subset, a Solar System, if you will, in the galaxy of songs in the world).

There are many songs in my repertoire that don’t have characters (ABCs or Feliz Navidad, for example) or that don’t make a point of the character’s genders (All God’s Critters or Five Little Owls)

Writing this on 3/18/2017, approximate count of my repertoire’s illustrated songs:
With male protagonists: 66
With female protagonists: 38


In this version, Papa does the quacking
5LittleDucks - denise fleming.jpg
5 Little Ducks
Traditional Words and Tune
Sing to the tune of FIVE LITTLE DUCKS
Words Adapted by Denise Fleming
Illustrated by Denise Fleming

The Bear went over the mountain to see what he could see
bear went over the mountain trapani
The Bear Went Over the Mountain

Traditional Words and Tune
Words Adapted by Iza Trapani

beethoven's wig (read along symphony)
Beethoven’s Wig
Music by Ludwig van Beethoven
Words by Richard Perlmutter
Illustrated by Maria Rosetti

Benjamin Franklin Founding Father front cover only
Benjamin Franklin Founding Father

Words by Emily Leatha Everson Gleichenhaus
Sing to the Tune of “Ode to Joy” (by  Ludwig van Beethoven)
Illustrated with Online Images of Artwork by Various Artists

I adore this song, but, though there are females in the illustrations, not a single female is mentioned.
big bell little bell
The Big Bell and the Little Bell

Words and Music by Martin Kalmanoff
Illustrated by Alastair Graham

billy boy richard chase glen rounds
Billy Boy
Traditional Words and Music
Verses Selected by Richard Chase
Illustrated by Glen Rounds

How many times must a man turn his head?
blowin in the wind
Blowin’ in the Wind
Words and Music by Bob Dylan
Illustrated by Jon Muth

The child this song is about is a boy.
circle game mitchell deines
The Circle Game
Words and Music by Joni Mitchell
Illustrated by Brian Deines

The dinosaur and his boy

Dinosaur Pet
Inspired by the Music and Lyrics of the Song “Calendar Girl” by Neil Sedaka and Howard Greenfield
Children’s Lyrics by Marc Sedaka
Illustrated by Tim Bowers

“I’ve got an old mule and his name is Sal…”

The Erie Canal
Traditional Words and tune
Illustrated by Peter Spier

The Gefiltes are boychick mensches, but mama is the one who cries.
five little gefiltes
Five Little Gefiltes
Traditional Tune (Sing to the tune of “Five Little Ducks“)
Words Adapted by Dave Horowitz
Illustrated by Dave Horowitz

The Fox is the father
fox went out on a chilly night spier 2014
Fox Went Out on a Chilly Night (An Old Song), 2014 Reissue
Traditional Words and Tune
Illustrated by Peter Spier

frere jacques ELEG SBWE - cover only
Frere Jacques-Brother John 
Traditional Words and Tune
Guitar Chords by ELEG for SBWE
Book Coordinated by ELEG for SBWE

Females play parts in this song (my version includes Mousie, the Old Gray Goose), but the fellow Froggie is the main character
froggie went a courtin eleg 4 sbwe
Froggie Went a-Courtin’ for Limberjack and Sing Books with Emily
Traditional Words and Tune
Adaptations by ELEG for Sing Books with Emily
Illustration by Mary Blair from My First Sing-A-Song Book, 1966

Frosty is a fella
frosty the snowman wade zahares
Frosty the Snowman
Words and Music by Steve Nelson and Jack Rollins
Performed by Kenny Loggins
Illustrated by Wade Zahares

Daddy takes us to the zoo, but at the end we learn that Momma will take us tomorrow.  You can sing this and change it around, though…
going to the zoo
Going to the Zoo
Words and Music by Tom Paxton
Illustrated by Karen Lee Schmidt
This book features printed music

Hector Protector (for SBWE)
Traditional Rhyme and Tune
Chords by ELEG for SBWE
To view or print this page, click here:


Here Comes Peter Cottontail
Words and Music by Steve Nelson and Jack Rollins
Illustrated by Pamela R. Levy


Here Comes Santa Claus
Words and Music by Gene Autry and Oakley Haldeman
Illustrated by Bruce Whatley


He’s Got the Whole World in His Hands

Traditional Words and Tune
Illustrated by Kadir Nelson
This book features historical information about the song.

honeyky hanukah
Honeyky Hanukah
Words and Music by Woody Guthrie
Illustrated by Dave Horowitz
With CD Recording by The Klezmatics

how doth the little crocodile sheet - w chords portrait
Poem by Lewis Carroll
Music by Various Artists
Crocodile Art by Mo Gleichenhaus

The song sings about Jesus, but both beautiful illustrations prominently figure a native depiction of Mary
Huraon Carol Wallace
The Huron Carol
Words by Jean de Brébeuf (1643)
English Lyrics by Jesse Edgar Middleton (1926)
Set to an Adaptation of the 16th Century French Noel: “Une Jeune Pucelle” (“A Young Maid”)
Illustrated by Ian Wallace

Papa buys the mocking bird in this version, but Mama goes about appeasing the baby in other versions

Hush, Little Baby
Traditional Words and Tune
Illustrated by Brian Pinkney

i am the music man (classic books with holes)
I am the Music Man
Classic Books with Holes Series
Traditional Words and Tune
Illustrated by Debra Potter

Oscar the Grouch…he is really wonderful
i love trash book sbwe eleg cover only
Words and Music by Jeff Moss
Illustrations Collected from Various Sources


I’m a Manatee
Words by John Lithgow
Music by Bill Elliott
Illustrated by Ard Hoyt
This book includes a vocal and instrumental track on a sing-along CD as well as a printed music…TERRIFIC!!

Sung by a woman about her male love…it’s a wash, but gender plays a part!

I’m in Love with a Big Blue Frog
Words and Music by Leslie Braunstein
Performed by Peter Paul & Mary
Illustrated by Joshua S. Brunet
ISBN 978-1-936140-37-4

Itsy Bitsy Snowman
Words by Jeffrey Burton
Illustrated by Sanja Rescek

Jolly Old St. Nicholas (A Holiday Book with Lights and Music)
Traditional Tune (also Pachelbel’s Canon in D Major)
Words by Anonymous
Illustrated by Donna Race

This Old Man, the male protagonist

Knick Knack Paddy Whack

Traditional Words and Tune
Arrangements by Mark Collins
Illustrations by Christiane Engel

kookaburra cantata
Kookaburra (Cantata Learning)
Traditional Words and Tune
Retold by Steven Anderson
Illustrated by Dan Taylor


Dinah blows her horn, but a guy is singing and playing the banjo

I’ve Been Working on the Railroad

Traditional Words and Tune
Edited by Ann Owen
Illustrated by Sandra D’Antonio

jamberry bruce degan
Sing to the Traditional Tune, ONE LITTLE TWO LITTLE
Text and Pictures by Bruce Degen


Late for School

Words and Music by Steve Martin
Illustrated by C.F. Payne
Published by Grand Central Publishing/Hachette Book Group, New York, 2010
ISBN 978-044-6-55702-3


Midnight Riders (a Fun Song About the Ride of Paul Revere and William Dawes) 
Traditional Tune (sing to the tune of “Over Hill, Over Dale”)
Musical Arrangement by Elizabeth Temple
Text and Lyrics by Michael Dahl
Illustrated by Brandon Reibling
ISBN 1-4048-0129-4
From the Fun Song Series


Monster Mash
Words and Music by Bobby Pickett and Leonard Capizzi
Illustrated by David Catrow
ISBN 978-0545214797


Must Be Santa
Word Adapted by Tim Moore
Words and Music by Hal Moore and Bill Fredricks
Illustrated by Pete Whitehead
Sing with Mitch Miller on YouTube :

octopus's garden starr cort
Octopus’s Garden
Words and Music by Ringo Starr
Illustrated by Ben Cort

Old Blue is a male protagonist
OLD BLUE 4 SBWE limberjack
Old Blue (arranged by ELEG for SBWE and limberjack dog)

Traditional Words and Tune
Arrangement by ELEG for SBWE

SBWE SBS old king cole w chords
Old King Cole w Chords for SBWE SBS
Traditional Words and Tune
Guitar Chords by ELEG for SBWE
Page Coordinated by ELEG for SBWE Songbook Series


Old MacDonald Had a Farm (Classic Books with Holes)
Classic Books with Holes Series
Traditional Words and Tune
Illustrated by Pam Adams
(You can find editions of this book which are packaged with a terrific sing-along CD)

Old Noah built himself and Ark…
one wide river barbara emberley
One Wide River to Cross (also One More River)
Traditional Words and Tune
Adapted by Barbara Emberley
Illustrated by Ed Emberley

SBWE SBS Ostentation of a Peacock w chords
Ostentation of a Peacock w Chords for SBWE SBS
Words and Chords by ELEG for SBWE
Sing to the Traditional Tune Brother John/Frere Jacques
Page Coordinated by ELEG for SBWE Songbook Series


Our Abe Lincoln
Traditional Tune, Sing to the tune of “The Old Gray Mare
Words Adapted by Jim Aylesworth
Illustrated by Barbara McClintock

pass the buck (fun songs dahl)
Pass the Buck (a Fun Song About the Famous Faces and Places on American Money)
Words by Michael Dahl
Sing to the Tune of This Old Man
Illustrated by Brandon Reibeling
From the Fun Song Series

Not a single female in here…
Presidents Name Song - cover only 2
Presidents Name Song for Sing Books with Emily
Sing to the Traditional Tune, ONE LITTLE TWO LITTLE
Song Intro by Emily Leatha Everson Gleichenhaus
Illustrations and Layout Compiled by Emily Leatha Everson Gleichenhaus


Puff the Magic Dragon
Words and Music by Peter Yarrow and Lenny Lipton
Illustrated by Eric Puybaret

Red Red Robin Lori Lee Stultz Cover
Red, Red Robin
Words and Music by Harry Woods
Illustrated by Lori Lee Stultz

row the boats (Geo Wash)
Row, Row, Row the Boats (A Fun Song About George Washington Crossing the Delaware)
Book by by Michael Dahl
Sing to the Tune of Row Your Boat
Illustrated by Sandra D’Antonio
From the Fun Song Series

rubber duckie SPB for SBWE cover only
Rubber Duckie

Words and Music by Jeffrey Moss
Book Assembled for Sing Books with Emily
This book is for home and classroom use only.

Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer
Words and Music by Johnny Marks
Arrangement for SBWE
Art by Eloise (2009)
To view or print this page, click here:


Santa Claus is Comin’ to Town

Word and Music by J. Fred Coots and Haven Gillespie
Illustrated by Steven Kellogg

senor pancho had a rancho
Señor Pancho Had a Rancho (and Old MacDonald)
Words by René Colato Laínez,
Illustrated by Elwood Smith
(Holiday House, $16.95)

smokey the bear book eleg sbwe cover only
Smokey the Bear (Illustrated Song)
Words and Music by Steve Nelson and Jack Rollins
Pictures Assembled from Resources Online
This book is for classroom use only.

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

there was an old man w a beard lear oechsli
There Was an Old Man with a Beard
Limerick by Edward Lear
Traditional Tune
Illustrated by Kelly Oechsli
This song sheet is for home or classroom use only.


This is the House that Jack Built

Traditional Words and Tune
Illustrations by Simms Taback

Poem by Eve Merriam
Illustrated by Marc Simont
Featured in Sing a Song of Popcorn (Every Child’s Book of Poems)
Tune by ELEG for SBWE
To view or print this page, click here:

trouble brewing dahl reibeling
Trouble Brewing (A Fun Song about the Boston Tea Party)
(A sing-along history lesson with music and lyrics)
Words and Music by Michael Dahl
Traditional Tune (sing to the tune of My Bonnie Lies Over the Ocean)
Illustrated by Brandon Reibeling

Up On the Housetop (Sing a Story)
Words and Music by Benjamin Hanby
Illustrated by Wendy Edelson
ISBN  978-0769649122

The song is about a swagman, a matilda is a sleeping bag…

Waltzing Matilda
Traditional Folk Tune Arranged by Christina Macpherson
Poem by A.B. “Banjo” Paterson
Illustrated by Desmond Digby


When I First Came to This Land

Words and Music by Oscar Brand
Illustrated by Doris Burn
LOC Catalog Card Number: 74-77596
This book contains notes about the author and illustrator and printed sheet music.

when i heard the learn'd astonomer loren long
When I Heard the Learn’d Astronomer
Words by Walt Whitman
Music by Various Artists
Pictures by Loren Long


When Johnny Comes Marching Home (A Song About a Soldier’s Return)
Traditional Tune
Words by Patrick S. Gilmore
Illustrated by Todd Ouren
(This book features printed music, historical information and activities)


Who Built the Ark? (Based on an African-American Spiritual)
Traditional Words and Music
Illustrated by Pam Paparone


Wynken, Blynken, and Nod
Poem by Eugene Field
Music by Various Artists (Including Carly and Lucy Simon)
Illustrated by Giselle Potter


Yankee Doodle (A Song from the American Revolution)

Traditional Words and Tune
Illustrated by Todd Ouren
(This book features printed music, a page of song history, and activity ideas)

Lists I’ve been able to assemble of the illustrated musical works of specific male singers, writers, authors, composers

There are so many of these, that I’ll point you to the link which houses them all
Singable Picture Book Lists for Special Occasions & Interests

It doesn’t take much to notice that there are a lot more men doing writing lryic, composing music, and creating illustrations than there are women doing the same work.

I wonder why?

Genders Specified in Illustrations (though not in lyrics)

Note:  There’s also the subject of genders depicted in the illustrations.  I’ve tried to only include songs in here in which the main character, as expressed by the lyrics, is one gender or the other.  Often, even if the song does not specify a gender for the protagonist, the illustrator will create one.  This isn’t a bad thing, since creating a character gives the kid reading the book a person to relate to.  The problem here, like with the lyrics, is that the protagonist in the illustrations is a male character much more often than a female character.

Just a sampling, but here are a couple books in which the lyrics do not specify gender of the storyteller, but the boy gets a starring roll in the illustrations:

backwards birthday party
The Backwards Birthday Party
Music and Lyrics by Tom Chapin and John Forster
Illustrated by Chuck Groeninck


Hey, Little Ant
Sing to the Tune of “Five Little Ducks
Words by Phillip and Hannah Hoose
Illustrated by Debbie Tilley


I Was Born About 10,000 Years Ago
Traditional Words and Tune (same tune as ”She’ll Be Comin’ ‘Round the Mountain“)
Words Adapted by Steven Kellogg
Illustrated by Steven Kellogg
ISBN 0-688-13412-2

Related Posts

Illustrated Songs in Emily’s Sing Books Repertoire that have Female Protagonists

Illustrated Songs in Emily’s Sing Books Repertoire that have Male Progagonists



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