I really couldn’t be more excited about Picture Books: August 10 for 10th. There not much I like to buy more than a great picture book. Looks like my credit card and Amazon is about to get an amazing workout after this event. Thank you to Cathy and Mandy for hosting and creating is wonderful event. So without further ado…here are 10 picture books I love.
I discovered Ish by Peter H. Reynolds when a friend told me I had to read it. I loved it from the first read but was unaware the impact this book would have on my students. I had a student who among other things was an absolute perfectionist. His illustrations had to be “perfect” and “look like a real one”. His spelling also had to be like “grown-ups”. Although his reactions were mostly out of his control the other children in my class had the same frustrations. After school one day trying to figure out how I could calm everyone’s anxiety about these things and this book came to mind. I thought if Ramon could overcome his need to create perfect things why couldn’t my kids learn from him. I read the book the next day and like magic things became “ish” in my room. The definition of “ish” has become-our best is all that is expected”.
I’m totally cheating for my second book selection. I’m choosing an author and including all of his books as one entry. Mo Willems. All of his books are favorites of my kiddos. Elephant and Piggie books, Naked Mole Rat Gets Dressed, Cat the Cat, The Pigeon books, and Knuffle Bunny are always in someone’s hand. His writing and illustrations have created readers out of children who thought they’d never find a book they liked. I love that Mo’s stories are always exciting, funny, engaging and simple.
The OK Book by Amy Krouse Rosenthal is one of those books where you say "Why didn't I think of that?" Amy takes the letters OK turns them on their side to make a stick person. OK tries many different things and is "OK" at them. The book ends with a really great line "One day, I'll grow up to be really excellent at something. I don't know what it is yet...but I'm sure having fun figuring it out." I love how this book encourages kids to try new things.
I love the story in Stand Tall, Molly Lou Melon by Patty Lovell but it's the illustrations by David Catrow that make this story special. Molly is a tiny little girl who has to move away from her grandmother and everything she knows. She encounters a bully at her new school but uses her strengths to overcome. David's exaggerated illustrations of Mollie and her friends make her seem to accomplish the impossible. He uses bright colors that draw your eyes in. One of my all time favorite illustrations in in this book...see if you can guess.
The Pout-Pout Fish by Deborah Diesen is the story of a fish who has an "ever present pout". I love this book because of the repetitive phrase and song-like way it's written. My kids love it because they end up memorizing the words and making this more of a shared reading experience. I had a student who had many challenges but a promise of reading The Pout-Pout Fish was all he needed to continue to try his best. The kids knew how much he loved this book and would not want to read it if he wasn't in the room. I also love that Deborah Diesen is a very kind and generous person. She heard that my class loves this book and offered to send me a signed copy...how cool is that?!
OK I'm cheating again...so I love Mo Willems and City Dog, Country Frog so much I thought it needed it's own separate mention. This is the only book (that I know of) where Willems takes a more serious tone and also does not illustrate is own book. This is the story of two friends and the evolution of their friendship across the seasons. Their love made apparent through Jon J. Muth's beautiful illustrations. I don't want to give away the end but I will say have a tissue ready. This book has helped create some very meaningful and in depth conversations by my kindergartners. These conversations not only reveal their innocence but also their keen awareness of reality.
Pink by Nan Gregory is the kind of story that my kids can really relate to. Vivi cannot escape "the Pinks" and all of their pink glory. These girls always have new clothes, ribbons and dolls "every shade of perfect pink". Vivi's family works hard to make ends meet so she does not get all of the new flashy things the other girls get. Vivi spots a "dainty bride doll in a dress of glistening pink petals, layers and layers, each one glazed with rainbow light." in the window of a very expensive store. She wants this doll but must save her money to get it. She works hard doing odd jobs to earn the money she needs. When one of "The Pinks" buys the doll before Vivi can, she is crushed. In the end, Vivi's family helps her see what is important in life and that you don't always get what you want. This story has an important message about family and love. On the second reading the kids end up sympathizing with Vivi and get into a great discussion about what's important. Although this book is very pink, the boys enjoy and can relate to the story too.
Kindergartners face a special set of challenges that kids in other grades don't typically face. For many of my students this is the first time they've been in a school setting so it can be very difficult for them to share the teacher's attention, sit for any amount of time and having responsibilities. It's Hard to Be Five by Jamie Lee Curtis and Laura Cornell perfectly describes all of the emotions and issues my kiddos are dealing with. The struggles with still being a kid, yet expected to stay clean and sit still. My kids love this story and often tell me they feel the same as this little boy. I love 5 year olds, they are so curious and inquisitive.
A Strange Day by Iris van der Heide and illustrated by Marijke ten Cate is the story of Jack. Today is the day Jack is expecting to hear if he won the drawing contest but when he checks the mail nothing is there. Jack wanders through his town thinking about his drawing and wondering why he didn't hear about the contest. What makes this book so special is that while Jack is moping around town, the illustrations tell the whole story. The postman tried to deliver Jack's letter but the wind blew it away. I like to read this story without showing the illustrations and then again showing them. I use this to talk about illustrations changing our understanding of a story.
Last but not least is The Little Yellow Leaf by Carin Berger. This is the story of a yellow leaf who is just not ready to let go of his tree. He hangs on through all of the other leaves falling and icy cold winter. One day he notices another leaf hanging on too, Little Scarlet Leaf. Little Scarlet Leaf helps Little Yellow Leaf find the courage to let go and fly. The story itself is wonderful but the language that Carin Berger uses takes this story to a whole new level. On one page she writes "Still not, he thought as the other leaves gathered into great heaps, crackly dry, where children played. As if the language were not enough Carin Berger creates stunning illustrations using collages of old paper. Some of it has typed words cut and arranged in the most perfect way.
Thank you for reading my picture book selections for 2011. I've enjoyed revisiting old favorites and I can't wait to read what everyone else has written.