Nothing takes the edge off a long car ride like a singalong. Last week, my two-year-old niece, Maggie, was petering out near the end of a three-hour–plus drive, and we started singing If You’re Happy and You Know It! How I wish we’d had Jane Cabrera’s board book with us! Suzie, Maggie’s mother, and I quickly ran out of verses. (You may remember Suzie from the Musical Literacy blog.) We could only remember the “clap your hands” and “stamp your feet” verses, and Maggie was strapped into her car seat, so we were trying to come up with verses she could do in her confined state.
As the saying goes, “Desperation is the mother of invention,” so we started making up verses (and of course, repeating them—thank goodness toddlers love to repeat things). Maggie’s favorite was “touch your nose.” We repeated that verse a lot. You know how you always think of the perfect line hours after a conversation takes place? Well, since then I’ve thought of “wiggle your ears” and “go snap, snap” (with your fingers). But the point is, there are myriad opportunities to add verses.
That’s what I enjoyed most about Jane Cabrera’s version of the song. She spices it up with humor, with the chimp clapping, the elephant stamping its very large feet, and the giraffe nodding its head at the end of a very looong neck. If we’d had Cabrera's book in our “backseat library,” we may still have run out of verses, but we would have had a much longer stretch without a repeat (more important to the adults than the toddler). It’s nearly impossible to come away from this song without feeling uplifted and energized. Altogether now, “If you’re happy and you know it, clap your hands!”