Saturday, August 10, 2013

Fourth Annual August 10 for 10 Picture Book Recommendations

It's that time for the fourth annual 10 for 10 Blogging Picture Book Event! Education bloggers post 10 book suggestions for great children's literature. The co-hosts are Cathy Mears and Mandy Robek. Cathy is the blogger for Reflect and Refine, and Mandy's blog is Enjoy and Embrace Learning. You can find all of the blogging participants through Cathy and Mandy's Jog the Web link collection. This year, I focused my collection on two favorites which have been published within the past two years. I hope you enjoy connecting with the suggestions!

Written by Ari Berk and Illustrated by Loren Long
Simon and Schuster Books, 2012              
     This story focuses on a young bat named Chiro who is encouraged by his mother to go on his first solo voyage into the night. He is apprehensive but also trusts in his mother’s gentle encouragement. Chiro’s mother explains that he will use his “good sense” to find his way. Although this advice refers to Chiro literally using his keen sense of hearing, it also has a philosophical meaning because he will need to make good decisions along the way. Loren Long’s illustrations of the bats against the stark black sky carry great impact and transport the reader into the dark of the night right alongside Chiro. He makes his way through the night, trusting in the advice from his mother that he repeats to himself. The author’s writing style in conjunction with the illustrations creates tension and suspense. The story has a happy ending when Chiro perseveres through the night and makes it back into his mother’s wings. 
     The writing trait of word choice can be highlighted with this text in a writing workshop interactive read aloud.  Berk’s distinct writing style gives the story a voice of a tender narrator. The students can be shown how an author’s note at the very end helps readers to make a text-to-world connection because of the explanation of the main character’s name Chiro to Greek word roots.  The writing traits of word choice and sentence fluency are also apparent through the lyrical writing and comparative descriptions. The teacher and/or students can collect “golden threads” of well-crafted sentences on a chart paper to serve as a mentor text example of this writing trait. Character traits can also be listed by students to describe Chiro throughout the course of the book.

Written by Jacqueline Woodson and Illustrated by E.B. Lewis
Nancy Paulsen Books/Penguin Books, 2012

    Author Jacqueline Woodson’s newest picture book Each Kindness is about a girl named Maya who is economically disadvantaged and new to a school during the middle of the year. In the class, an African-American girl named Chloe is featured. As time passes, the reader witnesses how Chloe and the classmates struggle with accepting Maya.  The teacher illustrates the power of their words by dropping a pebble in water to see how the ripples are much more far reaching than they think. One day, Maya is “forever gone” and Chloe realizes that her opportunity to befriend Maya and spread kindness has passed by.  

         The story serves as a wonderful springboard for a rich discussion during an interactive read aloud with the class. Students would use inferential thinking to make predictions and draw conclusions about what may happen next. Students could use post-it notes or a reader response notebook to record predictions and conclusions with evidence from the text as support for their thoughts.  Predictions and conclusions could be revised as the story unfolds. The writing traits of word choice and sentence fluency would be well modeled by Woodson’s writing in a writing workshop mini-lesson as well. 

Written and Illustrated by Loren Long
Philomel Books, 2012

   In the third installment of this series, Otis and the Puppy takes the reader back to the farm where Otis and the farm animals live. A new, exuberant puppy is brought home by the farmer one evening and he is a welcome addition to the homestead. During his first night, the puppy whimpers for company and Otis brings him into the barn to slumber together with the animals. One day while playing hide and seek, the puppy is distracted by a butterfly and wanders away. The entire farm sets off to search for him until the night sets in. Otis can’t sleep because he is full of worry. Despite being scared of the dark, Otis musters up the courage to search endlessly for the puppy. The story ends on a wonderful note when Otis finds him in a log and he brings the puppy home safe and sound.
    Otis and the Puppy is a wonderful story to discuss friendship and community at the beginning of a school year with a new class. Students can make predictions about what they think might happen next in the story in a discussion or in a written format. As the teacher continues to read the story, students would adjust or verify their predictions with new evidence from the text. Character traits could be explored to describe the feelings and personality of Otis and the puppy as well. The writing trait of voice is modeled with Loren Long’s narrative tone in his Otis stories.

 Written and Illustrated by Patricia Polacco
 G. P. Putnam's Sons, 2012 
      Patricia Polacco is a masterful storyteller and artist.  In this recent work, Polacco pens a memoir about a wonderful and influential art teacher named Miss Chew and a classroom teacher named Mr. Donovan. Both educators saw the talent that Patricia possessed as an artist and Mr. Donovan went out of his way to see that Patricia had the opportunity to take art classes with Mrs. Chew, the high school art teacher. Patricia flourished with Mrs. Chew’s learning and learned so much about art and persistence. The story ends with Patricia presenting a touching piece of art to Mr. Donovan at an art show.

  Students could compare and contrast The Art of Miss Chew and Thank-You, Mr. Falker by looking at the struggles, the feelings of being bullied, and how she overcame those challenges with the help of teachers.  Characters traits could also be outlined for the main characters on chart paper or sticky notes on a classroom chalkboard. Students could also practice visualizing aspects of the story by initially not showing illustrations for a few select pages and discussing what they imagine before revealing the book’s drawings. The writing traits of presentation, sentence fluency, ideas, and word choice could all easily be modeled with this book as a mentor text.

Written by Esme Raji Codell and Illustrated by Lynne Rye Perkins
Greenwillow, 2012 
    Seed by Seed starts out comparing the modern world that John Chapman lived in many years ago. A boy and a girl are show and they seem to travel back in time to the frontier with Johnny Appleseed. The author presents five tenants that Chapman lived by. Each of these mindsets is individually explored in the middle of the book. For the concept of “use what you have,” Codell explains how he wore simple hand me down clothes and obtained his apple seeds in resourceful ways. For “share what you have,” the author explains how he traded and sold his apple trees. If someone couldn’t afford them, he trusted people to take them and asked them to pay him back when they were able to do so.

     A fact that is not as well-known as his apple trees is how he would share books and sometimes split books into sections in order to share them with several people at once. In a sense, he was a pioneer as a librarian, too. For “respect nature,” the author explains how Chapman lived off the land and coexisted with animals well. For “try to make peace where there is war,” Codell discusses how he was respected in both the pioneer and the Native American communities that he encountered. “You can reach your destination by taking small steps,” compliments John Chapman’s many miles traveled throughout his lifetime and the difference his efforts made in countless lives of people he encountered along the way.  

    The book ends with this line: “What seed will you plant?” This idea serves as a writing prompt for students to reflect and wonder what small gesture that they can do to make their corner of the world a better place to be. After the story ends, the author offers ideas for a Johnny Appleseed Anniversary celebration for September 26. Children could do their own versions of celebrating Johnny and his good deeds at school or at home with families that day. The writing trait of presentation is exemplified through Perkins’s detailed illustrations. Codell’s decision to explore the human side of John Chapman supports the writing trait of ideas. 

Ralph Tells a Story
Written and Illustrated by Abby Hanlon
Amazon Children's Publishing, 2012                                         

     This book showcases a classroom of young students who have a teacher that passionately declares, “Stories are everywhere!” However, the main character, Ralph, struggles with writing and he’s paralyzed with writer’s block. He finds many ways to try to misuse his time and pleads for help from a neighboring student in the classroom named Daisy. She is so enthusiastic about writing that she tells Ralph that she has written many stories about him and everyday little events. After further struggle, Ralph winds up under his desk imagining a scene with an inchworm but his teacher only encourages his daydreaming in hopes of him finding a writer’s spark. He eventually shares this one line about an inchworm, and verbally elaborates on the story at story share time in the class. Everyone was thrilled to hear his story!

     This story would be a wonderful book to read aloud at the beginning of the school year to set the tone for the importance of writing in the classroom and to empower students with the feeling that they have important stories to tell.  At the end of the book, the character gives four cute tips for writing: get comfortable, ask for help, you can always write about what you ate for breakfast, and eat chocolate. Students can brainstorm with the teacher an anchor chart about their advice to each other for writing and what to do when you have writer’s block. The class can also compare and contrast Ralph as a writer from the beginning end pages to the end pages at the conclusion of the book. The irreverent titles of stories at the end are good examples of elaborating on simple, everyday topics in a humorous manner. Any of these activities would illustrate the writing trait of ideas.

Rocket Writes a Story                         
Written and Illustrated by Tad Hills Schwartz & Wade, 2012

     In Rocket Writes a Story, Tad Hills brings Rocket the dog back in the sequel to How Rocket Learned to Read. This New York Times bestseller is about a dog whose companion is a little yellow bird that acts as his teacher. The bird encourages him to collect words on a tree, gather ideas that inspire him, and write his first story.  Rocket reads his story to a pine tree who enjoys his writing. He experiences the value of sharing a story with an audience. This tale is a wonderful mentor text for writing workshop in grades 1-2 because the main character models being a passionate reader and writer. Students will connect to how Rocket works through the hard parts of the writing process. The writing traits of ideas, sentence fluency, and word choice are well modeled by the text. Character traits of persistence and curiosity are easily identifiable for students as well. 


Written by Amy Krouse Rosenthal and Illustrated by Scott Magoon
Disney - Hyperion, 2012
     Chopsticks is a sequel of sorts to the book Spoon. On a corner of the cover, the Spoon character declares, “Not exactly a sequel to Spoon. More like a change in place setting.” This story is about an animated pair of chopsticks which are initially an inseparable pair that do everything together. During a fancy maneuver, one of the Chopsticks breaks his tip. While he heals, the other Chopstick ventures out in the world to figure out how to be independent and “stand on his own.” The story ends with the injured Chopstick being successfully healed and both Chopsticks realizing that they are able to both stand on their own and stick together.  
    The book is full of puns, word play, and idioms. Examples include, “Chopstick was quickly whisked away” by a kitchen whisk after his injury and “feels fantastic(k)” when he comments about his healed leg. A teacher could share this book and Spoon as examples of stories with idioms, puns, and word play to express creativity in writing. Also, the book is a mentor text for demonstrating how to interject humor in a story without losing the focus of the storyline in an effective manner. The writing trait of voice is illustrated with the writing in this story. The book can also be used to compare and contrast different points of view and model how to effectively use dialogue in a story. 

Exclamation Mark
Written by Amy Krouse Rosenthal and Illustrated by Tom Lichenheld
Scholastic Press, 2013

      Exclamation Mark features an exclamation point as the main character. Immediately, human emotions are assigned to this simple but expressively drawn punctuation mark. The reader learns the different ways that he feels like he stands out and how he desperately wants to blend into the crowd. Rosenthal stays true to her signature style of infusing word play into her writing with lines such as, “But he wasn’t like everyone else. Period.” (The exclamation mark stands deflated at the end of a row of period marks to emphasize a double entendre.) The story takes a turn when the exclamation mark meets a question mark for the first time. The question mark bombards him with questions which drives him to exclaim, “Stop!!!” In that moment, he realizes his particular voice as an exclamation point.  

    Character traits can certainly be recorded by students with sticky notes, in a writer’s notebook, or a collective class chart during a read aloud. In particular, students can be asked to notice how he changed over time by writing down traits to describe him as a character near the beginning of the book versus how he acts at the end of the book. Comparing and contrasting how the exclamation mark acts at the beginning versus the end of the story can also be discussed with a Thinking Map or graphic organizer like a Venn Diagram. The problem and solution of the story can be reviewed in a discussion. Children could “turn and talk” to neighbors about the turning point of the story when everything changes when the exclamation point meets the question mark. The writing trait of presentation can be discussed because of the book’s distinctively simple yet impactful design.

Scholastic Press, 2012
    Unspoken is masterfully drawn by Henry Cole. Although it is a wordless picture book, a rich historical fiction story is told through Cole’s sketches. In the book, a girl is depicted living on a farm around the time of the Civil War.  When she goes out to the barn, she hears a rustling in the stored corn stalks. She realizes that there is someone hiding under dried stalks, and runs back home. The thought of someone out there weighs on her mind, and she sneaks out to leave some food for the stranger. She continues to sneak meals out to the mystery person in the barn. One day, two soldiers arrive looking for any runaway slaves and sternly show a poster that declares, “Wanted, Escaped! Reward!” The soldiers leave empty handed, and the little girl goes to check on the runaway. She discovers that the slave has moved on safely, but she is left to wonder where the slave went beyond her farm.  This wordless book has great depth in its storyline, and the reader "reads" the story with the powerful illustrations. In the author's note at the end of the book, Cole explains, "Because I made only the pictures, I'm hoping you will write the words and make this story your own - filling in all that has been unspoken." It is an excellent mentor text for using inferences to figure out what the author doesn't specifically tell you with words. The trait of presentation can be discussed, despite that the story is wordless, due to the the book's distinctive composition. Also, the trait of ideas could be explored with the assistance of the author's note at the end of the story which explains the true historical inspiration.



  1. I love all these books! Thanks for sharing....

  2. So many great titles! Thank you for the detailed summaries and suggestions for using with students.