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Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Award Winning Author and Elementary Music Teacher, Mary Furlong, Tells Us about Her Crocodile Books

Mary Furlong, an elementary school music teacher, has performed as a singer and instrumentalist throughout the United States and Europe, covering just about every kind of music - from Standards & Pop to Country & Western and Bluegrass.

Mary created "An American Sampler," an educational assembly for schools and libraries that chronicles the history of American music, to teach children that Rock incorporates many types of musical influences and if it weren’t for these types of music, such as Gospel, Bluegrass, Country, Jazz, and Folk, there would be no Rock & Roll. Mary lives in the Chicago area with her husband, T.C.They have two sons and two dogs... and no Crocodiles or Monkeys…yet!

Tell us about the genre of your work. 

My books have been called "Stories that Sing" and "Reading Songs." Each picture book comes with a CD or mp3 of the music and story, along with the musical score and downloadable coloring sheets from my website

Why did you choose this genre?

I think this genre chose me!

I have always enjoyed collaborating with my fellow educators and integrating Music into the core curriculum.  Kids come with all sorts of different learning styles and learning with Music makes it much more fun!

What are some of your books, stories that have been published?

I have two published books under my belt:

Nile, Nile, Crocodile and 5 Monkeys and Little Crocodile.                                                                                                                                                                                             

What ages do you direct your books?

My target audience is children between the ages of 3 and 7, although older kids and adults have been seen smiling and tapping their toes!                            

Can you tell us more about your books?

Nile, Nile, Crocodile (ISBN-13: 978-1-60131-029-3) A story about a mischievous Croc who nibbles on freckles, jeans, sneakers, and even undies!  The book includes a map of Egypt and information about the Nile River and the Nile Crocodile.

5 Monkeys and Little Crocodile (ISBN-13: 978-1-60131-069-9) Little Crocodile is being teased by 5 little monkeys.  What would you do if you were being teased? You might be surprised at what Little Crocodile does!  The book has an anti-bullying theme and what you can do if you find yourself being bullied.  There is information about the Vervet or Green Monkey and the endangered slender-snouted crocodile, who is actually quite shy, as crocodiles go~

You can purchase the books at: Brilliant Sky Toys and Books. 847.438.8300

Do your books have a teaching objective?  If so, what is it?

Absolutely!  The books can be integrated into various curricula, such as Science and Social Studies.

What is your favorite thing about your book/s?

My favorite thing about my books is that the kids learn while singing, moving, and having fun!

Is your book illustrated?  If so, would you tell us by whom, and if you worked with an illustrator, can you discuss that experience?

The illustrations in both books are by the incredible Aija Jasuna.  I was drawn (pun intended) to her work because of her concept of the characters and her sense of color.  Aija lives in Latvia and in spite of our language barriers, we were able to communicate just fine! Art and Music are definitely world languages!

How is writing in the genre you write, different than other genre?

I think it's different from most other genre because it is more "lyrical" and more like "composing" than just constructing a story.  There is rhythm and rhyme involved.

Are there any problems in getting children’s’ books published? 

Getting this kind of Children's book published has been difficult because agents and therefore, publishers aren't sure what category these "singing stories" will fit.  They are not strictly Picture Books or strictly Educational (textbooks).

Why and when did you begin writing? 

Nile, Nile, Crocodile was written when I couldn't find a song about the Nile Crocodile while I was teaching Music/Art in an inner city school.  It became a favorite of my students.  One day, one of the Kindergarteners said she thought it would be a really cool book.  From the mouths of babes...

What projects are you working on now, or plan for the future?

I am currently working on a parent/teacher resource for teaching the connections between the Civil War, the Civil Rights Movement, and the election of Barack Obama. 

What kind of advice or tips to you have for someone who wants to write and get published?

Don't give up!

What do you do when you are not writing?

I am a laundress, chauffeur, cook, housecleaner (not so much), nurse, landscaper, animal tender.  In other words, the best job in the whole world, a Mom!  :)

What “Made It” moments have you experienced in life?

I can't say this is a "made it" moment, but I was sure proud:  Both "Nile" and "5 Monkeys" received the Kids Music Award 2011 for best Reading Stories.
You can learn more about Mary on her website at:

Note from Sylvia: You can visit my other blog at: features a preview to my new book released in 2012, Traveling a Rocky Road with Love, Faith and Guts.


Anonymous said...

We need more people like Mary Furlong in our world who are open-minded enough to incorporate music into our children's learning. Yaaaaaaaaaay!

Meredith Colby Procell said...

Combining art forms lends perspective and context. Kudos to Mary Furlong for having the talent and tenacity to put story and song together in such a compelling way!

Dan said...

These books sound like great resources for elementary music education. It really was a very creative idea to incorporate geography and history into a book complete with songs.