Wednesday, August 10, 2011

2nd Annual "August 10 for 10" Book Recommendations

     I know everyone is starting to buzz with ideas and aspirations for the new school year! As part of my back to school mental preparations, I am joining the Ten for Ten Picture Book Roundup event this year. This event was dreamed up last year by Mandy Robek and Cathy Mere. Mandy is a Kindergarten teacher and blogger at Enjoy and Embrace Learning.  Cathy keeps a blog called Reflect and Refine: Building a Learning Community and is the author of More Than Guided Reading: Finding the Right Instructional Mix (Stenhouse, 2005.)  A special thanks also goes out to fellow participant Deb Frazier, who is the  blogger of Primary Perspectives. Deb was the one who brought this to my attention on Twitter and encouraged me to participate this year!

     This event involves kid lit bloggers who share a collection of ten favorite picture books that teachers shouldn't live without in their classrooms.  Some blogs feature ten books that are all time favorites, while others take a slant such as mentor texts, books that are great for teaching story elements, texts that can help teach math concepts, or ones that are a just right fit for a particular age group. The common thread that fellow kid lit bloggers state is that it is a really hard task picking just ten books, and I wholeheartedly agree!  Like some of the other bloggers, I decided that I would help myself narrow the playing field by picking ten of my new favorites to teach with that have been published since last August.  Although I still couldn't squeeze in all my new discoveries with just ten choices, this certainly helps to give this blog post a narrower focus. I've included links to authors and information on the text, so just click on the names and titles. I've also tucked in a few extra links to things, so be sure to check those highlighted portions as well.

A Butterfly is Patient Written By Diana Hutts Aston and Illustrated By Sylvia Long (Chronicle Books, 2011)

     From the author of A Seed is Sleepy and An Egg is Quiet, Diana Aston pairs up once again with the wonderfully realistic illustrator Sylvia Long. This is a fabulous author/illustrator team that I like to use when focusing on nonfiction in model lessons in the classrooms. Something I like to ask students is why did the author choose the wording for the title. (Patience would certainly be needed as butterflies go through their life cycle!) Children write interesting facts down in their writer's notebook and I have them help jot the facts after a discussion on a class chart.
     There are specific labels for each varied species of butterfly represented in the book, which makes it an example of labeling as an important nonfiction text feature. I love using the document camera when I teach, and sometimes revisiting a book under the camera to enlarge illustrations and text features helps to bring attention to the detail and impact of the pictures. This book is fabulous inspiration for nonfiction writers creating their own research project.

We Are In a Book Written and Illustrated By Mo Willems  (Hyperion, 2010)

  What can I say! I love the creative work of Mo Willems. His writing infuses humor not only for a young child, but for the caregiver who may be sharing in the reading experience with the child. He knows how to get the bang for his buck with a limited amount of text.  Willems refers to writing "easy readers" as "hard writers" because of the limited amount of words he has to work with. Because he is both the author and illustrator, he can help translate his story with the support of his simple but very funny illustrations
   I bought this book, We Are In a Book, at a book signing at Williamsburg Regional Library in Virginia last October. I was getting close to being a new bride, so I had him sign the book to me using my married name. That was a fun little first for me! In this particular installment of the Elephant and Piggie series, Elephant and Piggie virtually interact with the physical book pages when they realize that they are indeed in a book!  Piggie wonders if they ARE in a book, can they get the reader who is staring at them to say a word. He chooses the word "banana" and when they "hear" the reader say it, they fall out in hysterical laughter. (That was a real crowd pleaser with the kids in attendance at Mo's book signing that night! BANANA!!!! HAHAHA!!! Mo knows how to read aloud with a lot of zest!) When Elephant and Piggie ask the reader to read the book again at the end, this must certainly lead to rereading with many real life bedtime stories! This text is a great example of the character's displaying their voice as characters, and Willems has a distinct way of writing that his storytelling voice as an author comes through, too.

     Here's a bonus! You can read more about my experience with Mo's visit to my town of Williamsburg last October in this previous blog post! Mo has an extensive amount of material on the web. His websites are really divided into separate chunks, so be sure to check out both MoWilliems as well as GoMo. The Pigeon from the series also "Tweets" (excuse the pun), so check out the Pigeon on Twitter. One word of wisdom the Pigeon shared on Twitter awhile ago was that "Writing is asking why and why not simultaneously." That is one insightful bird!

Actual Size Written By Steve Jenkins  (Sandpiper, 2011 Reprint)
      As part of our school literacy team, we decided on a nonfiction focus for our staff development last year. I tied this into some of my literacy coaching lessons. Steve Jenkins was one of the mentor authors that I left with my third grade teachers so they could use his work in an author study to continue the learning that we did during my visits. I just discovered this reprint of the 2004 book that came out in paperback during this school year. I was so happy to add this text to my Steve Jenkins collection that I enjoy lending out to classroom teachers. Jenkins has such a fresh take on his nonfiction texts and he is always appealing to children! This makes for a great launching point for not only a nonfiction author study, but for exciting formats for student nonfiction writing. This text can be a partner text with his 2005 release Prehistoric Actual Size (Houghton Mifflin Books for Children, 2005.)  

     As a sidebar, if you would like a great source of inspiration for mentor texts, be sure to check out Nonfiction Mentor Texts: Teaching Informational Writing Through Children's Literature, K-8 by Lynne Dorfman and Rose Cappelli (Stenhouse, 2009.)  This is a companion professional book to their previous text Mentor Texts (Stenhouse, 2007.)
How Rocket Learned to Read Written and Illustrated By Tad Hills (Schwartz & Wade, 2010)
     Although I'm stretching my own criteria a bit here since it was published July 27, 2010, this book is a certainly a fun new favorite!  As a reading specialist, how can I not love a puppy who wants to read! :)  It's a great book to share during the first week of school to talk about being determined with work and being rewarded with success! This YouTube clip is a sweet way to see children enjoying the story all on their own!

Dark Emperor and Other Poems of the Night  Written By Joyce Sidman and Illustrated By Rick Allen (Houghton Mifflin Books for Children, 2010)

    I am such as huge fan of Sidman's work! I enjoy using her various books as intriguing examples of hybrid nonfiction texts. Sidman really knows how to "explode a moment" and bring magic to the most average things. When you read other works by Sidman, her distinct style of writing shines. It is as if Joyce Sidman herself is there sharing her work with the reader. I devoted a previous blog post to how I incorporated this text by Sidman into a literacy coaching lesson. You can check out the detailed post and photo of the chart created during the lesson by clicking here. At this previous post, you'll get to see how magical the third graders are trained to think at our school!

Interrupting Chicken Written and Illustrated By David Ezra Stein (Candlewick Press, 2010)

    Children can really identify with the little red chicken in this story from their younger years. His endurance for listening to a story just isn't ripe yet, and he impatiently interrupts Papa during the bed time reading. Children's prior knowledge of the original versions of the interrupted classics like Little Red Riding Hood help to make the humor pop while reading this book.  The author clearly let the little red chicken's voice as a character shine! For ways that the book can be explored with children, Candlewick Press put out a story hour kit  for inspiration. 


Apple Pie ABC Written and Illustrated By Alison Murray (Hyperion, 2011)

     In this short book, a girl named Grace bakes a pie. Her dog, Georgie, is so captivated by the smells that he ends up getting into some trouble just to taste the delicious treat. The sparse text incorporates a letter of the alphabet in ABC order to express how the action plays out. Between the few words and the word that begins with the alphabet letter, the main thought ends up being punctuated for impact. Some examples include, "ogle it" and "pine for it" to spice up the vocabulary and serve as teaching moments to use inference to figure out their meaning. A fun writing spin off for young kids could be creating a class version of this style of an ABC book where a story plays out in the course of the alphabet. 

The Loud Book Written By Deborah Underwood and Illustrated By Renata Liwska (Houghton Mifflin Books for Children, 2011)

     This book is a companion text to the preceding book entitled The Quiet Book (Houghton Mifflin Books for Children, 2010.)  This is a fantastic bedtime book just as much as it would be great for a mini-lesson for writing and about thinking of all the possibilities with an idea.  Underwood shares all the many ways things can be loud and HOW they can be loud. Both texts are easily identified with by children, but it makes them pause and think about a topic in a way they probably had not before. It is both a short text, but can provoke big possibilities for other topics, too.

     Click here for a preview of the text through Houghton Mifflin. You can check out photos of the illustrator Renata Liwska illustrating and using a light box for sketching on their Amazon page for the book. It's a neat little extension to show these photos after reading the book with children.

Scaredy Squirrel Has a Birthday Party Written and Illustrated By Melanie Watt (Kids Can Press, 2011)

   As the title implies, Scaredy does indeed prepare for his birthday in this story. In classic Scaredy fashion, he tries to be prepared for everything about his party, but as you can guess, disaster strikes! Children love revisiting with this character once they learn about his quirky but loveable personality by reading the first book in the series.  Melanie Watt applies her distinct humorous voice to this newest story in the series. Children love the predictability of Watt's story structure and voice as the narrator. 

   Here's a bonus link to a previous blog post about Scaredy Squirrel. You can see one of the ways I use books by Melanie Watt for teaching. I love teaching this particular lesson in September to first graders. It's a great way to start cultivating that big thinking we come to use during the school year with books. 
    Scaredy might be scared and overprepared, but he's got a Facebook fan page to stay in touch with his followers. It's silly and just for fun, but you do get updates that will put a smile on your face! Here's a little preview for Scaredy Squirrel Has a Birthday Party from YouTube and Kids Can Press:

Children Make Terrible Pets  Written and Illustrated By Peter Brown  (Little, Brown Books for Young Readers, 2010)

      First of all, this book is simply a belly laugh kind of story that will put a smile on a child's face. It's about a bear named Lucy who brings home a little boy that she dubs "Squeaker." Instead of a human child begging to keep an unexpected pet animal, it's an animal bringing home a human. For teaching, you can talk about how Lucy has many reasons why she should keep the little boy she dubs "Squeaker." There's a fun way to talk about how to list ideas for a persuasive argument. (Kids are already experts in this area more than they know!)  When a character is trying to be persuasive and give reasons for why he or she should get or do something, that's a great way to show how the character's voice is present. It's also an entertaining way to talk about different character's points of view and how this is a new take on a familiar scenario of "Please Mom, PLEASE!"

    I look forward to reading all of the other 10 for 10 blog posts via Twitter! Happy virtual picture book party!  (Twitter hashtag: #pb10for10) You can also check out this collected list of blogs from the creators on Jog the Web.


  1. You have compiled a fantastic list of newer picture books here! I have read and LOVE them all. Dark Emperor, Children Make Terrible Pets and Interrupting Chicken were favorites in my classroom last year.

    Happy Reading!

  2. Great list. As I've already mentioned elsewhere, Steve Jenkins rocks in general but Actual Size is one I use all the time with student-teachers. I'm not familiar with your last recommendation Children make terrible pets but will look for it.
    Apples with Many Seeds

  3. Thank you for joining us and showing me, A Butterfly is Patient. I hadn't seen this one yet.

  4. Oh, I love Mo Willems... everything he writes. He is so funny. Cool that you got to see/meet him. I also loved Children Make Terrible Pets. I like when a picture book can make me laugh! Really cool that you chose new books, I have a lot to check out now!