Must Have NOW! (or this fall)

If You Give a Mouse an Iphone

Winner of the prestigious Best Book I’ve Never Read Medal!  This title has gobs of unpacked potential!!

(Coming this fall)

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Beauty in Everyday Life

All the Places to Love

My tendency is to shamelessly plug picture books that explore urban experiences. So, what’s up with this somewhat idealized, “growing up on the farm” story?

Two things.

First, if diversity really means a wide range, then farm life shouldn’t be marginalized. Second, while I’ve known kids from rural areas to have fascinating misconceptions of their urban counterparts. The reverse is also true.

At it’s core “All the Places to Love” is about finding beauty in life and nature. It’s not hard to find beauty here because Mike Wimmer absolutely nails the illustrations. The story is narrated by the boy on the cover who takes us to all the rural places different members of his family love. As he guides us we discover how each generation passes their love of these places to the next. The twist comes when his baby sister is born and he looks forward to the day when he can show her all the places he loves.

Patricia MacLachlan gives us a feel good, poetic look at rural life that boarders on 1950’s pop-culture idealism. While that romanticized slant might strike some adult readers as amazing trite (and stupid); keep in mind that this is a picture book for kids. If you want to deconstruct the situated complexities of class, gender, political contexts and race you might enjoy reading my thesis (when I finish).

But you will have lost your audience at the title.

Tanogram Hype Man

The Warlords Puzzle

The Tangram is so engaging that it doesn’t really need a picture book to entice kids to play. But, if you were seeking an over the top  introduction with a nod to medieval China (and a side of economic social justice) then this is definitely your book.

Virginia Walton Pilegard delivers The Warlord’s Puzzle  in a style often employed for Chinese folk tales. In this one, the ruler (warlord) has a problem (tangram) that no one (wise men, monks, and the affluent) can solve.  Enter the peasant fisherman’s son, to save the day and receive a lavish reward. It’s no shock that we wrap up with the moral of the story. (Just because you’re marginalized by the mainstream culture doesn’t mean you aren’t wise.)

Predictable? Yes. But given the application I have tasked this book with, this is a solid selection.

And here are a couple user friendly tangram sites.

ABCya!

National Geographic Kids

 

Going Global: Yakyu

 

Take Me Out to the Yakyu

As a kid, I would get sick with anticipation wanting to go to major league baseball games. There was something almost magical about the experience of being in the ball park: especially since I was accustomed to watching my favorite teams on TV. Thus, I reached euphoria when a player flipped me a beat-up ball during batting practice. Ah, the cheap thrills of youth!

This is the energetic world Aaron Meshon delivers to us in Take Me Out to the Yakyu, with the notable caveat that we are going to baseball fields in Japan AND the U.S. This is another fabulous tool to reveal to students that the world is so much bigger than the local community to which many of them are confined.

BTW: I like to follow this up with a little Google Earth tour from our team’s baseball field to Tokyo Dome. It’s a wonderful tool to transport students from the streets of our city around the globe; and demonstrate that we are but one tiny location in a vast world.

 

Mo Willem’s Motivation to Write

Goldilock and the Three Dinosaurs

In picture books, absolutely brilliant writing will help me overlook simplistic illustrations. (The opposite is rarely true.) Apparently I’m not alone, because Mo Willems‘ smash hit picture book career has consisted of an entire collection of such books.

Goldilocks and the Three Dinosaurs is another fantastically funny addition to Willems’ collection.

In this spin-off, the “poorly supervised” Goldilocks ignores all common sense and trespasses onto the Dinosaurs’ residence. There she scarfs down all three bowls of chocolate pudding regardless of their temperature because IT”S CHOCOLATE!!! (Personally, I’d do the same.) Eventually she grows suspicious of the noises outside the house that sound like dinosaurs (who  want to eat her) and she escapes their trap just in time.

A few years ago a child asked Willems’ where he gets his inspiration to write such creative stories. He said, “I’m lucky. My motivation comes in the mail. It’s called bills!” Whatever the source, it’s working. Goldilocks and the Three Dinosaurs is another great read aloud.

 

Invisible People

The Can Man

I never saw the “invisible people” at the library. They were not the quintessential smelly, sleeping in public with tattered clothing variety. Security moved “those people” out like they might infect the masses.

No, the invisible people knew how to blend in.  In retrospect, they were definitely there. But, I didn’t have the eyes to see them. After working with a couple of groups that aid the homeless, I know what to look for. But prior to this, they didn’t even exist in my world.

Not so long ago the homeless were invisible in picture books too. It took the efforts of a giant (Eve Bunting) to break that barrier. Her masterwork, Fly Away Home, remains the most balanced representation of homelessness to grace the market.

The Can Man is about more than just one invisible population. Oddly enough, biracial families are virtually nonexistent in picture books, and I’ve never seen a Black/Asian couple and their kids in a picture book before. So when I saw that “Tim”, the boy who befriends The Can Man, came from a biracial family I couldn’t believe it! I literally turned the pages back just to double check. Is this real?! Gratefully, yes. Yes it is, and it’s about time!

So what is the book about?

The Can Man is a heartwarming – if somewhat romanticized – story of homelessness and hope, minus the common issues that often  parallel homelessness: mental illness and drug  addiction.

What Laura E. Williams doesn’t deliver in hard realities, she makes up for by bringing invisible people to the printed page. While most students are not homeless, a growing percentage are biracial. The presence of positive representations of  lived experiences of these families within schools is a critical step in embracing and welcoming populations that often receive neither.

For the hard realities of homelessness, check Invisible People‘s videos and Dennis Cardiff’s chronicling at Gotta Find a Home.

Global Perspective

Flotsam

I won a bookstore gift card by answering a trivia question on a radio talk show. (Yes, I’m that much of a nerd.) So, I promptly trekked over to the store and brought Flotsam into my wordless picture book collection.

This is the story of an old camera.  An extremely old camera that travels the oceans by surreal means and eventually washes up where a boy is enjoying the sun and sand. Upon developing the film, he finds a picture of a child in another country holding a picture of yet another child. A magnifying glass reveals that this third child (in yet another county) is holding a picture of a fourth child in another country… and on and on it goes: stunning image after stunning image, country after country, generation after generation around the world and back into the 1800’s.

The global/historical perspective of David Wiesner‘s Flotsam is a marvelous doorway to talk about cultures with young children who are otherwise unlikely to venture beyond the borders of their country.  (And of course, because it’s a wordless picture book it’s perfect for teaching inferential meaning.)