“If you were stranded on an island and had to teach,
what 10 picture books would you hope to have in your bag?”
cc flickr photo by Mrs eNil
This blogging challenge posed by Cathy Mere and Mandy Robek posted on Twitter caught my attention and really got me thinking!
A self-described bookworm, a bookaholic even, I am constantly browsing, buying, borrowing, and resisting books in used book stores, new bookstores, garage sales, friends’ bookshelves, the library, online, and in the Scholastic bookorders at school. I have shelves upon shelves of books, two classroom libraries (one intermediate and one primary) and I’ve only been teaching for 8 years!
cc flickr photo by Eric M Martin
How on earth will I choose my top 10 favourite picture books??? It wasn’t easy. I mean even if I narrowed it down to my top 10 favourite math picture books, it would have been excruciating. I found it hard to choose between some of my all time fave classics and some newer reads I wanted to rave about. Truly, I’m not even sure my top 100 would have come easily. Needless to say, I waffled back and forth on more than a few…
In the end, I think I’ve chosen a top 10 that is diverse in theme, copyright date, and interest. They are in no particular order, as I could not bring myself to rank them, given that it was a miracle I whittled the list down to 10 in the first place. But here is my list (… for today, at least):
10.) Proud as a Peacock, Brave as a Lion, by Jane Barclay
I found this rare gem just before Rembrance Day last year. This tender story is told through the interactions between a young boy and his grandfather. Curious about why his grandfather went to war, the little boy ask questions as ‘Poppa’ gets ready for the veteran’s parade. ‘Poppa’ recalls how he was as proud as a peacock in his uniform, as busy as a beaver during the Atlantic crossing, and as brave as a lion going into battle. When the boy learns of the friend that his ‘Poppa’ lost in the war, he offers his own imagery, saying “Elephants never forget”. The old man replies “Then let’s be elephants.” This book is a touching story told in simple, but beautiful prose. It touches the heart and speaks across the generations about the difficult and rarely broached topic of war. The images in the book are riveting: muted watercolour illustrations of the past, and the hazy, dream-like animal imagery, both reflect the somber tone of the book, while the bolder coloured poppies and images of present day provide a hopeful message.
9.) The Little House, by Virginia Lee Burton
A classic! Though over 60 years old, this charming tale of the little country house that watches the days pass by, only to find herself soon surrounded by an encrouching city, still captivates young readers’ imaginations and holds a relevant message for those slightly older about the effects of urbanization. Amazon.com states that “Children will be saddened to see the lonely, claustrophobic, dilapidated house, but when a woman recognizes her and whisks her back to the country where she belongs, they will rejoice.” A fairytale style story, The Little House, has an enduring message that “there is no place like home.” The folksy illustrations are enchanting and delight readers of all ages with the detail, animation, and colour!
8.) the dot, by Peter H. Reynolds
An inspiring story with an ageless appeal and powerful message! When Vashti declares “I CAN’T DRAW!”, her teacher encourages Vashti to “just make a mark and see where it takes you.” Framing the dot Vashti has drawn for all to see, the teacher inspires her to draw dots of all shapes and sizes. Soon there is no stopping Vashti and she begins to inspire confidence in others. I use this book at the start of the school year. It reinforces the idea that each of us is creative and sets the expectation of effort and imagination over correctness and convention. The marvelously quirky illustrations are created from a unique blend of media: watercolour, ink, and tea!
7.) Miss Nelson is Missing, by Harry G. Allard
“Rarely has the golden rule been so effectively interpreted for children.” (Booklist, ALA ) This funny, engaging tale begins with the kids in Room 207. They are the worst behaved class in the whole school. They are loud and rude to one another and they do not listen to their kind and gentle teacher, Miss Nelson. One day Miss Nelson does not come to school. A mean and cruel subsitute, Ms. Viola Swamp, is sent in place of Miss Nelson. Soon the kids in Room 207 are missing sweet Miss Nelson, but she is nowhere to be found. A little clever detective work will find some clues throughout the book that point to the whereabouts of Miss Nelson. It is always fun to see the lightbulbs turn on as the kids figure these out! A fun, humourous story with entertaining pictures and a moral!
6.) The Bugliest Bug, by Carol Diggory Shields
A favourite in my classroom this year! The Bugliest Bug offers a marvelous blend of lively rhymes, kid-pleasing humour, fun facts, and vivid illustrations. When the “Bugliest Bug” contest is held in the swamp, all the insects are so busy showing off, that only a young damselfly, Dilly, notices something odd about the sinister-looking judges–they have wings strapped to their backs… They are not insects, but arachnids! Dilly alerts the bugs and heroically oganizes the bugs to fight back, using each of their special talents: the ants march, the mantises pray, and the stink bug finishes the job! Though small and seemingly lacking in special talents, Dilly’s quick thinking saves the day. And yes, someone is awarded the honour of “bugliest bug!”
5.) Chalk, by Bill Thomson
This masterfully illustrated, wordless picture book is a simple, but exhilarating and clever story that reminds us of the power of imagination. When three friends find an ordinary bag of sidewalk chalk on the playground, the discovery results in far from ordinary drawings. Finding that their drawings will come to life, the children chase the rain away by drawing a sunshine and marvel when the butterfly they sketch launch into the sky. It is all very pleasant and fun… until someone draws a dinosaur! Chalk is a great tool for a lesson on inferencing, a lesson on reading pictures, or as a writing hook. Vibrant, realistic, and detailed, the acrylic and colour pencil drawings lend to the dramatic quality of the book.
4.) Ladybug Girl and Bumblebee Boy, by Jacki Davis
A sequel to Ladybug Girl, this companion book does not disappoint! Lulu meets her friend Sam on the playground, but they each have a different idea of fun and cannot agree on what to play. When Lulu suggests playing “Ladybug Girl,” a game involving superpowers, Sam is intrigued! As Ladybug Girl and Bumblebee Boy, Lulu and Sam save the playground, using their imaginations! Davis takes the everday challenges that kids face and provides a humourous and understanding account that kids relate to, as well as important lessons about the importance of working together and the power of inclusion. The colourful, expressive cartoon illustrations are a delightful complement to the text. This won’t be the last of the Bug Squad!
3.) Owl Moon, by Jane Yolen
Few picture books can captivate both child and parent the way that Owl Moon can. With songlike prose and stunning illustrations, this touching tale brings to life a magical, nighttime adventure. A simple story of a wintery evening stroll, it depicts the wonderment of childhood and the special relationship between father and daughter on their search for a great-horned owl. It is pure anticipation, hope, and belief that keeps readers of all ages turning the pages of this enchanting tale. “As expansive as the broad sweep of the great owl’s wings and as close and comforting as a small hand held on a wintry night . . . The visual images have a sense of depth and seem to invite readers into this special nighttime world.” (School Library Journal)
2.) The Lady in the Box, by Ann McGovern
A heartwarming and disarmingly honest depiction of homelessness, The Lady in the Box is told from the perspective of Ben, the youngest of two siblings. When Ben and his sister encounter a woman living in a box, over the heating grate, outside the Circle Deli, they bend their mother’s rule about not talking to strangers to try to help the “lady in the box.” The story sheds light on a very real issue in a way that children can understand and relate to. It carries an inspiring message of hope and reminds us that small kindnesses can make a difference. The realism of the story is enhanced by beautiful oil painting illustrations that capture the tone and emotion of every scene, portraying the human side of homelessness.
1.) Where the Wild Things Are, by Maurice Sendak
Likely one of my oldest and all-time favourites, Where the Wild Things Are, is a true classic! Young and old relate, as “Sendak presents an image of children not as sentimentalized little dears but as people coping with complex emotions such as anger, fear, frustration, wonder, and awareness of their own vulnerability.” (Children’s Literature) The story begins when Max gets into mischeif and his mother sends him to his room with no dinner. Angry and frustrated, Max imagines that he sails away to a land where he is made king of the Wild Things. Tired of being wild, Max returns to the comfort and peace of his bedroom, where his dinner is waiting and still hot! The vibrant images add to the whimsical wonderment of this familiar tale!
Thanks for the challenge, Cathy & Mandy… it was formidable, but fun!
I am very excited to see the choices that others have made and
to hopefully add a few more books to my wishlist
(…and to my shelves–but please don’t tell my husband!)