Apr 27, 2013

Everyone Can... Succeed... Again and Again

SCREEN-FREE WEEKApril 29-May 5, found me curtailing (but not eliminating) my own screen time, which leads me to re-post last week's feature on picture books for graduates, augmented with one additional title. After all, it is still graduation season, and books like these can become legacy keepsakes, lasting long after a gift card is spent. Don't get me wrong, a gift card might rise above a picture book on wish lists, but still, give these some thought.

Graduation season is upon us: from kindergarten paper diplomas and cupcakes to high school to stadium-filling university events with President Obama or Ellen Degeneres delivering the commencement address. Each is a landmark, honoring significant accomplishments and  the transition to a new life phase. Reaching that transition involves investments of time, energy, learning, and courage, equipping the graduate with the skills and experience to face the prospects of new challenges ahead.

Fiewel and Friends, 2009

Graduation marks a significant conclusion, but also the beginning of a never-ending cycle of challenges. That's why I recommend PEEP: A Little Book About Taking a Leap, by Marie Van Lieshout. Young or old, readers are launched on a dramatic story arc when Mother Hen warns, "PEEP, don't fall behind." Waylaid by distractions, worry, frustration, loneliness, and a sense of defeat, PEEP resorts to a plea for help. His eventual success is all his own, though, and generates pride and praise. He barely sighs "I did it!" before  he finds himself steps away from the next challenge.

Does this trajectory remind you of any graduates you know?
I've also shared this book at the end of a school year as my classes celebrate hard won-successes and face the prospect of the next grade with a mix of excitement and a sprinkling of anxiety. 

Schwartz & Wade, 2013
Which brings me to this April release, EVERYONE CAN LEARN TO RIDE A BICYCLE, written and illustrated by two-time Caldecott winner, Chris Raschka. Raschka's vivid, loose illustrations and straightforward second-person voice engage the reader as a partner in the experiences and reactions of this small child. We share her goal, her exuberance, and her frustration, determination, and ultimate success.
Raschka's minimal text combines with major energy and emotional content. Expressions and actions tell more than words. This is a must-have for novice bikers, and a parable of sorts for recent graduates or others embarking on new life challenges. The parenthetical last line is the take-away: (And now you'll never forget.) This new title has earned starred reviews from Publishers' Weekly, Booklist, Kirkus, and School LIbrary Journal.

Random House Books for Young Readers,  1990

Another title that often makes its way into the hands of graduates of every age is the rolicking OH, THE PLACES YOU'LL GO, by Dr. Seuss. (<< Don't miss this website!)  It is similar to Raschka's title in its suggestion that we should embrace adventure, challenge, and learning goals for ourselves, whatever might lie ahead. In fact, rather than bemoan the wobbles and bumpy roads, these actually make the process richer and the ultimate successes more satisfying. The struggle itself constitutes the bulk of our lives, allowing us to arrive at these landmark moments as masters of our own accomplishments.

Take a look at the trailer for this classic.

Whether the graduate you know is matriculating from preschool into "real" kindergarten, taking exams early to allow rehearsal time for high school ceremonies, or transitioning to a career in engineering (Way to go, Brandon!), these picture books have the power to reflect their own lives. And don't be surprised when their parents find themselves in there, too, reliving their own transitions and crossing fingers that the bumps, wobbles, and gloomies faced by their offspring are survivable and strengthening.

I'll be back next week with a brand-spanking new post, and I'd love to hear your thoughts about these and other "just right" books for graduates, as well as your experiences in sharing picture books with older readers. Any other suggestions for end-of year titles for classroom use?

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