Below are some of my favorite books in this genre and suggestions for thematic classroom units.
Please share some of your favorite picture books and experiences sharing them with children.
The Girl Who Wore Snakes
Author: Angela Johnson
Illustrator: James E. Ransome
Ali is a young girl who falls in love with snakes when the zoo man visits her school. She buys her own at the pet store, draping them around her neck and arms. Her parents, friends, teachers, and most of her extended family do not understand her connection to these orange, yellow, and brown creatures that remind Ali of “…the sun and the earth and everything in between,” (Johnson). However, Ali stays true to her passion, and later discovers that one of her aunts shares the same love for snakes.
Artwork: Bold paintbrush strokes
Possible topics: coming of age, connection to nature/animals, personal identity/discovery, familial bonds (aunt and Ali).
Mirette on the High Wire
Author: Emily Arnold McCully
Award: The Caldecott Medal
A story based in 19th Century Paris, Mirette is a young girl who works at her mother’s boarding house. Vagabonds from around the world—acrobats, jugglers, and mimes—frequent the boarding house. One day, none other than the Great Bellini, a world renowned, but retired, high-wire walker comes to stay. One day, Mirette sees Bellini walking across the courtyard on the clothesline and is convinced that “Of all the things a person could do, this must be the most magical” (McCully).
Captivated by the high-wire, Mirette begins to teach herself the art step by step. It is not long before Bellini begins giving her lessons. A friendship forms, giving Bellini the confidence to return to the crowds and the wire.
Possible topics: pursuing dreams/passion, friendship, overcoming challenges/fears
Author: David Ezra Stein
In a humorous picture book for any age, Papa tries to get the little red chicken ready for bed, and what is bedtime without a bedtime story? Unfortunately, Papa can never get through any story without the un-sleepy little red chicken interrupting and interjecting.
Artwork: Pastel, pencil/ink
Possible Topics: parent/child relationships, lesson-starter (don’t interrupt), creating own story (little red chicken AND listener/reader), predicting, animal stories/characters
Follow the Drinking Gourd
Author: Jeannette Winter
A lyrical, yet straightforward, story of a family’s journey to freedom, “Follow the Drinking Gourd,” presents a simple but vivid depiction of the Underground Railroad and the struggles and fears of American slaves escaping to the North. However, although the family’s travel is dark and grim, Winter also presents the kindness and help of strangers along the way.
Possible Topics: American/African American History, doing unto others, overcoming challenges, (Lyrics and music in back of book).
Knots on a Counting Rope
Authors: Bill Martin Jr. and John Archambault
Illustrator: Ted Rand
Reading Rainbow Recommended
A rhythmic dialogue between Boy-Strength-of-Blue-Horses and Grandfather, “Knots on a Counting Rope” is a story about a young, blind boy overcoming challenges and recognizing his strengths over his weaknesses.
Artwork: "The beauty and vastness of the Western sky and the intimacy of two loving figures by a campfire are portrayed with equal fluidity." - Publisher's Weekly.
Possible Topics: Native American story telling, coming of age, self-respect/confidence, friendship
Visit Young People's Pavilion next Sunday for part two of Picture Books.