Aug 26, 2012

Back-To-School- Alphabetically

Let's start out easy- as easy as A-B-C.

I'll say "Chicka Chicka" you say...

"Boom Boom" of course! Everybody knows that!

I have no doubt there are some kids (and teachers/caregivers) who can start with
"A told B and B told C, 'I'll meet you at the top of the coconut tree.'"
then recite every word of the remaining text as readily as they could sing the traditional ABC song.

That's because alphabet books, like so many quality picture books, have power. Many alphabet books are  varied, appealing, rich, informative, entertaining, stimulating, and downright beautiful. And the best not only survive repeated readings, they invite it. What better time than back to school to tout the use of some of the best, aiming for every age.
BeachLane Books, 2000

CHICKA CHICKA BOOM BOOM by Bill Martin, Jr. and John Archambault, illustrated by Lois Ehlert, is a must for any pre-readers or emerging readers. The driving rhythm, natural rhymes, colorful pages, humor, and readily available musical renditions will give anyone an earworm, which is precisely the point with young learners.

The many related "chicka-books" will be devoured by established fans, too.

Puffin, reprint 1999

ALPHABET CITY by Stephen T. Johnson has stood the test of time with readers of all ages. A Caldecott honor book, the illustrated images so closely resemble scenes from natural and urban settings that anyone would have to look repeatedly to be convinced that these are illustrations rather than photographs. The concept is addictive, too. Readers will be on the lookout for letters of the alphabet everywhere in the environment. A good thing, yes?

Alfred A Knopf, Random House

Traveling all the way back to 1968 is worth the trip to read and share THE ALPHABET TREE by Leo Lionni. On the simplest level it makes a fun caparison to Chicka Chicka Boom Boom, with the letters living in a tree. It also bears comparison to Lionni's Swimmy, reflecting one wise little leader suggesting the strength of banding together to resist attacks (from feeder fish, or in this case, strong winds.)
This is a wonderful "next step" of letter understanding, that letters combine to make words, and words combine to make sentences. In its unexpected conclusion (especially when considering the intensity of the cold war in 1968)  the words combine in a sentence of REAL importance: Peace on Earth and good will toward all men.

Scholastic, 2002

ALPHABET UNDER CONSTRUCTION by Denise Fleming incorporates Fleming's characteristically intense colorful and creative illustrations. It also manages to focus on verbs rather than the more typical nouns or adjectives selected to illustrate each letter.
I can't help but think of how well this creative and busy little mouse would fit in with the kids in Liz Garton Scanlon's recent book on making art, THINK BIG.

Scholastic, 2011

For older audiences alphabet books are an accessible format for informational text, the non-fiction reading that comprises so much of Common Core State Standards (CCSS). Just a few of the many available examples that fit well in literary and content area instruction include:
BUGS A TO Z by Caroline Lawton,  GONE WILD: AN ENDANGERED ANIMAL ALPHABET by David McLimans, and V IS FOR VANISHING: An Alphabet of Endangered Animals by Patricia Mullins

Walker Publishing, 2006

In each case these books provide a combination of intriguing and informative illustrations or photographs, accurate terminology, multi-leveled text demands, scientific terminology, back matter, and text elements such as an index or glossary.

Margaret Hamilton Books, 1993

These examples barely scratch the surface of non-fiction informational text presented in the format of an alphabet book. When attempting to introduce topics, gather reference resources, develop vocabulary, share accurate images and scientific drawings, why not examine quality  alphabet books before racing to a google search?

Harper Collins Publishers, 1963

Since this year is  the 50th anniversary of Harold and the Purple Crayon, let's not forget HAROLD'S ABC by Crockett Johnson, which was published the next year, 1963. Timelessness is a quality nearly impossible to define, but easily recognized. Toddlers to teens find Harold's creativity fascinating and funny, but never forgettable.

Timeless is a well-deserved description for this 2012 release,  Z IS FOR MOOSE by Kelly Bingham, illustrated by Paul O. Zelinsky. I posted a review of this book and an interview with it's creators when it released earlier this year. This is a perfect back to school book on so many levels: organizing, taking turns, cooperation, frustration, personality patterns, and friendships.  Oh, and alphabet and humor, too.

If you're planning which books to feature in the first weeks of school, alphabet books and otherwise, check out Colby Sharp's Nerdy Book Club blog post. You have until August 31 to submit a picture of yourself with a favorite "back-to-school" feature book.  Then check their site on Labor Day to view a video of "first book" photos. I'll be watching to see if any of these titles turn up!

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