Aug 17, 2013

Another Not-So-Easy List

In the last post I lamented the challenge of naming favorite anythings, but especially favorite picture book titles. My mental qualifiers regarding the intent, audience, and situations in which books are read or shared make it nearly impossible for me to zero in on a single title or even short list of favorites. That why I declined participating in the Picture Book 10 for 10 blog challenge, instead relying on others more decisive than I am to share their choices. 
I did feature two examples of favorites titles for specific purposes.

This post takes on another challenge, one that was issued by blogger Colby Sharp on the Nerdy Book Club Blog last August. He put out a call for classroom teachers to consider a book they planned to read aloud within the first two weeks of school, the one they felt the most excited about sharing with their students. If you think that's another challenge I declined, you're right.

In workshops for teachers I share the advice of Pat Cunningham that an elementary teacher for any grade level should, ideally, have at least five read-alouds each and every day. YIKES! FIVE?
Yep. 

  1. An excellent picture book (Demonstrates that little books have big ideas, validity, for readers of all ages.)
  2. A poetry selection (Provides wide experiences with language, forms, authors, sources, and topics of poetry in only a few minutes a day.)
  3. A chapter of a longer selection (Provides shared experiences with text of high quality, builds a common frame of reference, and allows modeling discussions and sustaining meaning over time.)
  4. Two or more non-fiction passages related to content area topics (Introduces quality authors and titles for research and exploration of current studies.)
With that in mind, the first two weeks in my classroom often involve 40-50 or more titles, all of the highest quality, and each of which I'm excited to share.
HARPER (Harper Collins Imprint), 2013

And yet, despite my reluctance to name favorites among them, I feel compelled to feature a marvelous back-to-school title here that might be especially suited to your child or classroom situation. Mike Boldt wrote and illustrated 123 VERSUS ABC. On the title page "1" and "A" introduce themselves and their conflicting intents for this book- to create a book about numbers/a book about letters.
Using lively expressive features and stick figure body language along with speech bubbles and loads of personality, each  claims the turf of this book with reason, volume, and increasing assertiveness. 
When the rest of the cast gradually appears the arguments continue:
1-Alligator
2-Bears
3-Cars... and so on.
As the numbers and creatures and their various activities continue, near hysteria develops before "1" and "A" agree that it is a book about both, letters AND numbers. 
Until, on the  last page turn, a blob of red appears asking for the book about colors.

This recent release is a fine example of the POWER of picture books
Compact, Complete, Compelling.
It is appealing, invites close scrutiny, resolves a problem, begs for retelling, and entertains.
It also reveals subtexts in the visuals, and offers various approaches to conflict resolution- an important topic in the early weeks of school.
Greenwillow Books, 2012

This would be a perfect pairing with  Z IS FOR MOOSEthe 2012 alphabet picture book written by Kelly Bingham and illustrated by Paul O. Zelinsky. In a previous post I examined that title closely and interviewed Paul and Kelly about its creation.
In both cases older students can explore similarities and distinctions between the two titles: the tongue-in-cheek nod to ubiquitous alphabet (and number) books with iconic visual symbols, characters in conflict, the "all about me" attitudes displayed, and the story arcs created in each. 
One step further would include comparisons of art styles and design, facial expressions, and ways that action and movement are portrayed. (See what I meant about little books having big ideas for older readers, too, even alphabet books?)

Here's hoping that as plans are made for the start of another school year both of these titles will find their way into classrooms of every age, generating thoughtful discussion, mindful comparison, and, above all else, a love of books.

As always, your comments about favorites (back-to-school titles, alphabet and number books, or any other topic) are welcome.


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Picture books are as versatile and diverse as the readers who enjoy them. Join me to explore the wacky, wonderful, challenging and changing world of picture books.