Wednesday, August 6, 2014
Four Excellent (but very different) Picture Books
Rosenthal, Amy Krouse (2011) This Plus That: Life's Little Equations New York: HarperCollins.
Cartoony illustrations + clever words = This Plus That.
Examples (yes + no = maybe) + (laughter + keeping secrets + sharing = best friend) = (tall + coffee = grownup)
Lower elementary + middle grades + high school + (really any math or language arts class) + all teachers ever = audience.
Buying this book + sharing it with your class = your reputation as awesome and funky teacher.
Previous equations + strong recommendation = my review.
Wardlaw, Lee; Yelchin, Eugene (2011) Won Ton: A Cat Told in Haiku New York: Henry Holt.
This is the story of a cat adoption and the forging of a relationship between the cat and his boy. The whole thing is told through a combination of beautifully simple illustrations and brilliant haiku poetry. The story would be great fun to read to kindergarten and first graders, but the haiku makes it a natural choice for middle school or high school teachers looking to introduce poetry that follows restrictive forms. It is a good one.
Van Allsburg, Chris (2010) Queen of the Falls Boston: Houghton Mifflin.
So there was this widow named Annie Edison Taylor who owned a Charm School in Bay City, Michigan. Her Charm School was not doing well and she was having trouble paying the bills and so she decided that she could go over Niagara Falls in a barrel and then tour the country giving lectures about her experience. This book goes over her struggle to convince people she was serious, of ordering a barrel that met her specifications, of the actual ride over the falls, and her subsequent (remarkably unsuccessful) lecture tour. And yes, it is an interesting story in a lot of ways -- but as good as the story is, you really need to see this book because of Chris Van Allsburg's amazingly detailed illustrations. Somehow he manages to draw in a way that captures the excitement and action of a barrel going over the falls, but at the same time, stops time so you can picture that particular moment in remarkable detail.
Lower grades (first and second maybe) will love this book, but older grades in art classes would really get a lot out of looking at what Van Allsburg does when he draws.
Long, Loren (2013) Otis and the Puppy. New York: Philomel.
For really little kids, sometimes you just need a book that has a simple story without much danger, that comforts more than it unsettles. This book is the story of a little tractor who goes out into the dark forest in the dark night to rescue a little puppy. He rescues the puppy. Everyone is happy. That is the whole plot.
The illustrations owe a great deal to recent Pixar movies, it seems to me, But they are cute and the book is fun and reassuring without being insipid or cloying. If your pre-K or kindergarten book is dues for a new book or two, you should really make this one of them.