Twenty Picture Books that capture the essence of childhood

It is November and that means it is Picture Book Month!

Time to read and celebrate all things picture book. For me, it’s the perfect excuse to generate lists!

This week’s list? Picture books that capture the essence of childhood. With actual children in them! When I started looking at some of my favourite picture books, I realized that many of them were actually not about children. Many feature animals (bears are strangely (or not) represented) or a lot of adults. Some are about children but feature animal characters. These can be fantastic and very easy for children to connect to (I’m thinking everything Kevin Henkes does). The ones with “real children” characters can sometimes have heavy themes or be a little too forced. They don’t all ring true. We can’t pluck a character off the page and believe that child could quickly leap into a playground full of children and completely blend in. Or beautifully stand out . . .

Move into chapter books and boom, there are the kids! Marty Macguire. Clementine. Billy Miller. Flora Belle Buckman. William Spiver. Dory Fantasmagory. Piper Green. Nate Foster. Popeye and Elvis. There are no shortage of children behaving like children.

Finding them in picture books? Not as easy. Hence, my list.

These 20 titles are all about kids and all that they are. Childhood and all of the quirky, all of the lovely, all of the human, all of the unique. Sometimes the messy and challenging. Sometimes the sweet and lovely. All of it absolutely honoured and celebrated. These 20 books all hold a special place in my heart.

I would love to know which books you would add to this list and why. Please share in the comments.

Twenty Picture Books that capture the essence of childhood

Stuck by Oliver Jeffers

On the list because? Children have some interesting, not always sensible, problem solving strategies.

 Stuck Twenty Picture Books that capture the essence of childhood

The Frank Show by David Mackintosh

On the list because? Kids worry about not being the coolest, the best, the greatest. Even in the Grandparent department.

The Frank Show Twenty Picture Books that capture the essence of childhood

Rosie Sprout’s Time to Shine, written by Allison Wortche and illustrated by Patrice Barton

On the list because? Primary students need to navigate a lot in a day – sometimes doing the most simple of things like growing seeds: envy, friendship, forgiveness, competition

 Rosie Sprout's Time to Shine Twenty Picture Books that capture the essence of childhood

Let’s Do Nothing by Tony Fucile

On the list because? Little ones have a hard time doing just nothing or even turning off their racing imaginations. Those busy brains are pure delight!

Let's Do nothing Twenty Picture Books that capture the essence of childhood

The Man with the Violin written by Kathy Stinson and illustrated by Dušan Petričić

On the list because? Children notice what we should. Especially the very beautiful and amazing things in the world.

The Man with the Violin Twenty Picture Books that capture the essence of childhood

Ben Rides On by Matt Davies

On the list because? When given the chance to do the right thing, children usually will. Eventually.

Ben Rides on Twenty Picture Books that capture the essence of childhood

Yuyi Morales wrote and illustrated Niño Wrestles the World

On the list because? Children love to embrace the wild and amazing energy of their heroes.

 Nino Twenty Picture Books that capture the essence of childhood

Nana in the City by Lauren Castillo

On the list because? Being brave sometimes requires a little wisdom from someone who has been around for a while. Or a little magic.

Nana in the City Twenty Picture Books that capture the essence of childhood

Wilfred Gordon Macdonald Partridge  written by Mem Fox and illustrated by Julie Vivas

On the list because? Childhood is about navigating the road between making memories and learning from the memories others share

Wilfred Gordon McDonald Partridge Twenty Picture Books that capture the essence of childhood

Blizzard by John Rocco

On the list because? Snow day after snow day after snow day and the chance to be a hero. Childhood magic!

Blizzard Twenty Picture Books that capture the essence of childhood

Desmond and the Very Mean Word written by Archbishop Desmond Tutu and Douglas Carlton Abrams and illustrated by A.G. Ford

On the list because? Learning about forgiveness is one of childhood’s most powerful lessons. Often as adults, we still don’t have it figured out.

 Desmond Twenty Picture Books that capture the essence of childhood

Float by Daniel Miyares

On the list because? Children approach rain in the best of ways. All in. Rubber boots, puddle jumping, sailing of boats!

Float Twenty Picture Books that capture the essence of childhood

Ask Me written by Bernard Waber and illustrated by Suzy Lee

On the list because? Little ones have lots and lots of stories to tell. If you don’t ask, they will remind you to.

Ask Me Twenty Picture Books that capture the essence of childhood

Sparky! written by Jenny Offill and illustrated by Chris Appelhans

On the list because? Thee is something particularly magical about childhood faith and hope.

Sparky! Twenty Picture Books that capture the essence of childhood

I’m Bored  written by Michael Ian Black and illustrated by Debbie Ridpath Ohi

On the list because? “I’m Bored!” is a childhood theme song! But “Kids are boring.” Those are fighting words!

I'm Bored Twenty Picture Books that capture the essence of childhood

This is Sadie written by Sara O’Leary and illustrated by Julie Morstad

On the list because? All children need to have a little piece of Sadie inside of them and have space to let it shine!

This is SadieTwenty Picture Books that capture the essence of childhood

Harriet You’ll Drive Me Wild! written by Mem Fox and illustrated by Marla Frazee

On the list because? When you are little, it seems to be all too easy to make parents a little crazy.  Just like that. Pesky is too easy. But forgiving and hugs are part of it all too.

Harriet You'll Drive Me Wild Twenty Picture Books that capture the essence of childhood

John Patrick Norman McHennessy – the boy who was always late. by John Burningham

On the list because? Everyday holds huge imaginative possibilities. Even if others don’t quite embrace our wild stories, we persist in telling them. And maybe they are true . . .

John Patrick Norman McHennessy – the boy who was always late. Twenty Picture Books that capture the essence of childhood

Millie Fierce by Jane Manning

On the list because? Sometimes when we discover new found ferocity, it takes a little while to tame. Inner strength and big doses of kindness, we need them both.

Millie Fierce Twenty Picture Books that capture the essence of childhood

Singing Away the Dark written by Caroline Woodward  and illustrated by Julie Morstad

On the list because? A lone walk through the woods is a journey of many small moments of bravery. Singing to combat the fear? A perfect strategy.

Singing Away the Dark Twenty Picture Books that capture the essence of childhood

How I love sharing picture book lists during this month of picture book love!

Happy Picture Book Reading!

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Monday January 27th, 2014

It’s Monday! What are you reading?

IMWAYR

Join Jen from Teach Mentor Texts and Kellee and Ricki from Unleashing Readers and share all of the reading you have done over the week from picture books to young adult novels. Follow the links to read about all of the amazing books the #IMWAYR community has read. One of the very best ways to discover what to read next!

My favourite picture books (both fiction and nonfiction) reads of the week:

A Splash of Red: The Life and Art of Horace Pippin written by Jen Bryant and illustrated by Melissa Sweet

Again, Sweet just slays me. Everything she does is vivid colours and spectacular details. This fascinating biography of artist Horace Pippin is an inspirational tale of an artist with everything stacked against him who makes art despite it all. Loved the back story of how Bryant and Sweet collaborated on the research to create this book.

A splash of red #IMWAYR There's a Book for That

The Invisible Boy written by Trudy Ludwig and illustrated by Patrice Barton

This is such an important book with themes of exclusion, kindness and friendship. I shared what this book was like as a read aloud experience in my classroom in this post.

The Invisible Boy #IMWAYR There's a Book for That

Dream Boats written by Dan Bar-el  and illustrated by Kirsti Anne Wakelin

Lyrical text. Illustrations full of folklore, magic and dreams. Fall asleep and ride through dreams and history on a dream boat. A title that must be read, reread, examined and explored. It sails you through many legends and cultures around the world.

DreamBoats #IMWAYR There's a Book for That

Lost Cat by C. Roger Mader

Come and see the world from the perspective of a little lost cat, left behind when her owner moved. I shared my students’ reviews here.

lost cat #IMWAYR There's a Book for That

The Very Brave Bear by Nick Bland

Bear and Buffalo square off in a battle of bravery. I am completely charmed by the silly antics revealed in the illustrations. Not sure how much of the text I even paid attention to – the pictures are hilarious!

#IMWAYR There's a Book for That

Noisy Poems for a Busy Day written by Robert Heidbreder and illustrated by Lori Joy Smith

Busy, bustling poems perfect for the preschool set. Full of sounds, fun to say and lots of silly . . .

Twisty-Twiggle.

Jump-up jiggle.

Undies backward!

Wiggle-giggle.

Hee! Hee!

Noisy Poems #IMWAYR There's a Book for That

Born to Be Giants: How Baby Dinosaurs Grew to Rule the World by Lita Judge 

I learned an incredible amount about dinosaurs in this nonfiction title and thoroughly enjoyed all of the details and comparisons to modern day creatures. Amazing illustrations.

#IMWAYR There's a Book for That

I read some other fabulous nonfiction picture books which I shared in my Nonfiction Wednesday Post: Animal Stories

I also read:

Forgive me, Leonard Peacock written by Matthew Quick

A perfect book to sit down with when you don’t have to get up for hours. I found myself pulled quickly into the world of Leonard Peacock and not wanting to put the book down and abandon him for even a moment. Raw. Vulnerable. Hurting. What a character. This is the story of a teenage boy who begins his last day on Earth because by day’s end, he’s planning to be dead. How did he get to this place? He will tell you, unravelling details of his history and his pain. This was one of my #MustReadin2014 titles – the second Matthew Quick title I have read this month. Definitely YA.

#IMWAYR There's a Book for That

Next up? I am reading The Living by Matt de la Pena and then plan to read Marie Lu‘s The Champion to finish the trilogy.

Reading Goal updates:

2014 Chapter Book Challenge: 6/100 novels complete

Goodeads Challenge: 61/650 books read

#MustReadin2014: 4/30 complete

Nonfiction Picture Book Challenge: 24/65 complete

Happy Reading to all!

The Invisible Boy

I know when I read certain picture books that I have a powerful read aloud in my hands. Actually sharing the story with a classroom full of children can sometimes be so touching and illuminating, that I realize that I have underestimated the impact the story will have on listeners. Such was the case with this title:

The Invisible Boy written by Trudy Ludwig and illustrated by Patrice Barton is a story that needs to be shared and discussed. In my class, the comments, questions and insights brought tears to my eyes. Children need to talk about this book! Adults need to listen.

The invisible boy There's a Book for That

Before I even began reading this book, I asked children to predict from the cover and title. Here is what was said:

  • “Maybe people don’t treat him well so he doesn’t show himself.”
  • “Maybe people treat him like he’s invisible.”
  • “He might be ignored.”
  • “Maybe they don’t pay attention to him.”
  • “He might be lonely because people don’t be his friend.”

The story begins with Brian who isn’t noticed in a class full of big personalities that demand a lot of attention. Brian, we learn, doesn’t take up much space. He isn’t included in recess games. He isn’t invited to parties. He isn’t able to contribute to lunchtime conversation. Brian loves his art and escapes into his drawings.

At this point n our read aloud, we stopped to talk about what we had observed.

  • “He’s a really good drawer.”
  • “He looks sad when he doesn’t get to play. He’s always on his own.”
  • “Does drawing calm him down?”
  • “What if he told how he felt, would he get to play?”
  • “That teacher didn’t see him right beside her because the other kids are loud and noisy.”
  • “Maybe a new kid will come and they might have something in common?
  • “Yeah and then he could have a friend!”

Students were delighted that on the very next page, a new boy, Justin, arrives in Brian’s classroom. Some of the kids wondered should they be Justin’s friend. Was he cool enough? When kids laugh at Justin’s food in the lunchroom, Brian notices. He wonders “which is worse – being laughed at or feeling invisible.” Brian makes Justin an encouraging note about his lunch. We stopped again to talk and share our thinking:

  • “Maybe if the new boy fits in, Brian will have to draw a friend. He’ll still be alone.”
  • “Do you think he will ask Justin to be his friend?”
  • “They only want to play with cool kids?! That’s not fair!”
  • “Will Justin fit in? Will he still be nice?”
  • “Justin and Brian do have something in common because they are both teased.”

At this point, the question was posed: “What does it mean to be cool?”

  • “In this book it seems to mean all popular and kinda mean to people. But a cool person should be nice and kind and sharing to everyone.”
  • “Why do we need to be cool to be friends? Kids who show off don’t seem cool.”
  • “Cool means people are being mean and making fun.”

When it seems like Justin is beginning to be included and Brian continued to be excluded, Justin steps up and insists Brian be part of a classroom trio to work on a project. The illustrator has begun to add colour to the drawings of Brian. Children noticed this immediately: “He has colour now because he is noticed.” Brian’s smile as he begins to be part of a friendship group lights up the final page. We asked the students the very important question suggested in the back of the book.

“How many kids did it take in this story to help Brian begin to feel less invisible?”

It was completely quiet and then little fingers went up showing one (Justin) or two (Justin & Emilio). Nobody talked as the children looked at each other. Some started to nod. Some shook their heads. One little voice spoke for all of us:

“Oh. I get it.”

Some written responses that need to be shared: 

Joeli: Why does the teacher ignore him – even when the teacher can see where he is? Why did the popular kids tease Justin? They don’t know what he is even like. When that teacher was looking for Brian, why she did not look beside her or in front of her? I think she needs glasses.

Soleen: This book is interesting because it suggested that we can help others like ____________ because she is lonely.

Andrew: There was a boy named Brian who was invisible. Justin made Brian not invisible anymore.

Grace: This book inspired me to help kids in our school that feel the same way. Me and my friends are going to play with ________. I think she feels lonely. Even the tracher doesn’t notice Brian. My teacher would never do that. I noticed that when he was invisible, he was black and white. Then when Justin came along and they became friends, he had colour.

Sara: The kids think they are cool but why don’t they think they are all cool? He was invisible but when Justin came, they played together and he wasn’t invisible anymore, Maybe this book is trying to teach us treat others how you want to be treated.

Hyo Min: Brian was sad because no one can see him in his class. Justin and Emilio made friends with Brian. Why other kids need cool friends? I felt a little sad for Brian. Brian wanted to make friends. At the end of the story, he was happy with his new friends. I love the story.

Ibtihal: I learned that kids can make you feel better. When Justin and Emilio made friends with Brian, he turned into colours. The teacher didn’t see him because kids were being loud and noisy. The kids only played with the cool kids. The kids made fun of Justin’s food so Brian made a beautiful picture of his food and wrote “Yum!”

Pheonix: Brian, the invisible boy was gray at first. Then a different boy touched him and he got colour and he was not invisible anymore.

Brian: Justin had something in common with Brian because kids were teasing both of them. When Emilio started being their friends, Brian started to not be lonely anymore.

Heman: I noticed that Brian was feeling lonely. I noticed that Brian and Justin were both being teased at. The kids in Brian’s class only wants to be friends with cool people. Brian felt sad because he was left out. Justin made Brian feel better. Brian was a good drawer. Brian, Justin and Emilio made a story based on a picture and Brian drew the pictures.

Because there are children that don’t seem to take up space but actually have much to offer . . .

Because each child is important . . .

Because no one should feel alone in the middle of a classroom community . . .

Because each of us can make things different for someone else . . .

Share this book with your students.

Monday, November 26th, 2012

It’s Monday! What are you reading?

Join a fabulous group of readers who share their weekly reads from picture books to young adult novels by participating in Jen and Kellee’s meme. If you are looking for new book ideas, this is a fantastic place to start!

The reading and the blogging about my reading are guilty pleasures this week. I am supposed to be finishing report cards. The reports are coming along but the reading and celebrating cannot be sacrificed!

I read a lot of wonderful picture books this week. Most of them fit into one of two categories: sweet or humourous. And a few were neither or straddled both. This is how I categorized my top ten favourite picture books reads this week:

Picture books of the Sweet variety :

Spork written by Kyo Mclear and illustrated by Isabelle Arsenault I am a big fan of Virginia Wolf written by this author/illustrator team but I had yet to read this earlier book. A lovely story about being meaningful when you are truly needed. Arsenault’s illustrations are as always, stunning.

Make a Wish Bear by Greg Foley Yes, this book does end on a kind of predictable note but all along the way it celebrates a bunch of “strategies” for making a wish come true. I am a sucker for wishing upon a star so I thought this book was pretty special.

Plantpet by Elise Primavera This book ranks up there as one of my all time favourite picture books. It was not a new read but an important “re-read”shared with my class. We savoured it and then we did some art (see below) to celebrate the wonder of Plantpet. I highlight how amazing this story is in this post. Plantpet enters Bertie’s life as a found little creature in a cage. When Plantpet’s digging seems to have no end, Bertie banishes him to a corner of the yard and soon finds himself all alone. When he recognizes how much he misses his friend, Bertie races to find him only to discover a withered little green being. The two revive their friendship in the most beautiful of ways.

Student art inspired by this story: Ode to Plantpet

Mine! written by Shutta Crum and illustrated by Patrice Barton This little book is almost wordless (so I am instantly a fan) . One word is used in a multitude of ways: “mine” Young siblings and a dog experience owning, sharing and exploring with some toys. A little love expressed happens along the way.

Books that tickle your Humour bones: 

Goldilocks and the Three Dinosaurs by Mo Willems This was a fantastic read aloud shared in my classroom this week. A twist on a classic tale that only Willems could deliver. My favourite comment from a student: “Why did the dinos want to eat Goldilocks so badly? I liked that Goldilocks.” This is a Goldilocks you really must meet.

Slightly Invisible by Lauren Child I really do like Lauren Child’s Charlie and Lola books. They are so much fun for children to read aloud to practice dialogue reading and expression and I love the sibling relationship: Lola’s spunk and Charlie’s patience. I particularly love Lola’s “imaginary” friend Soren Lorensen. So the fact that this character has a kind of key role in this story, makes me an instant fan.

A Pet for Petunia by Paul Schmid I had seen this title on a number of blogs and booklists earlier this year and finally bought my own copy. This is certainly a book to own. Petunia wants a pet. A pet skunk. And when her parents cannot be convinced, my, oh, my does she react. Off she stomps to live in the woods where she happens to meet a real skunk. Let’s just say real life experience has a way of being a powerful teacher . . .

I’m Bored  written by Michael Ian Black and illustrated by Debbie Ridpath Ohi I’m Bored” – oh such tedious words that parents and teachers dread. This story’s power is in the hugely large display of “I will prove I am NOT boring” that the main character shows to us.

Kids are boring.” Those are fighting words!

In between:

Won Ton (A Cat Tale Told in Haiku) written by Lee Wardlaw and illustrated by  Eugene Yelchin Such a cleverly told tale of a cat finding his way into the home and hearts of a family who adopts him. Funny moments of cat quirkiness alongside tender images of a cat and “his boy.”

Something else entirely and so worth a read: 

Each Kindness written by Jacqueline Woodson and illustrated by E.B. Lewis Reminiscent of The Hundred Dresses this beautifully illustrated picture book’s power is in the questions it suggests: What does it mean to be kind? How do our actions impact others? What does it feel like to be left out and ignored? What happens when we run out of chances? Each kindness has a chance to matter if it is in fact offered. Powerful.

I also finally finished The Search for Wondla written and illustrated by Tony Diterlizzi as a read aloud with my children. We took quite a while to read this because we so frequently find picture books and non-fiction titles to share together. But every time we picked it up after a few nights off, we fell right back into this very unusual science fiction/fantasy title. Stunning artwork. Interesting story. Not necessarily the best book I’ve read in a while but certainly made for lots of great discussion with my children.

Upcoming book adventures?

I just started reading Wonder by R.J. Palacio to my own children! I loved this title when I read it and can’t wait to share it.

Last week I finished reading Clementine and the Family Meeting to my class and we just started Turtle in Paradise by Jennifer L. Holm. I hope it will be a favourite for my students as it was for me!

The novel I am reading for myself is What Came from the Stars by Gary D Shmidt. Very intriguing so far.

More fabulous picture books with a Garden theme

As we continue to learn about plants, seeds and gardens, it feels like there are garden themed books blooming everywhere we look.

See our first list here which includes many more titles.

Ava’s Poppy by Marcus Pfister

We read this book today and students were inspired to create a list of all the great reasons this book should be shared: we can learn how to grow a flower, it teaches us about life cycles, we learn how to take care of a flower, there is lots of information about seeds,  and it has important themes of kindness and friendship. Lovely little Ava makes friends with a gorgeous red poppy in a field of green and cares for it in changing weather and over time. When she buries a seed capsule, she has no idea that the next spring her poppy will return to her!

 Rosie Sprout’s Time to Shine written by Allison Wortche and illustrated by Patrice Barton

Students loved this story about a little girl who learns about friendship, kindness and surviving competition while tending pea plants in her classroom. Shared in our classroom here.

The Giant Seed by Arthur Geisert

Another wordless book by the brilliant Geisert and a follow up to the equally wonderful Ice (reviewed here) Explore the concept of seed dispersal and how seeds travel in this fantasy story. How the pigs happen to be saved from volcanic disaster is a reason to share this story many times.

And then it’s Spring written by Julie Fogliano and illustrated by Erin E. Stead 

Explore the magic of the transformation from brown and boring to the wonder of green that comes in spring. What treasures lay buried deep waiting for the sun, warm temperatures and the power of spring showers?

Fletcher and the Springtime Blossoms written by Julia Rawlinson and illustrated by Tiphanie Beeke

Is that snow in the middle of spring? Fletcher certainly thinks so. But he learns that blossoms can cover the earth in a blanket during the spring just like snow does in the winter. A beautiful celebration of spring.

Rosie Sprout’s Time to Shine

Rosie Sprout’s Time to Shine, written by Allison Wortche and illustrated by Patrice Barton was our read aloud wonder of the day! Students were completely engaged with the story and had lots to talk about as we read.

I could talk on and on about why this book is a fantastic book to share in the classroom but today, the book love comes from the students. I asked them why a teacher should share this book in the classroom and here is the list we came up with.

* “It teaches lots about gardening.” Isa

* “It shows you that it doesn’t matter if you are the best.” Manny

* “It is an example of forgiveness.” Truman

* “It reminds you that everyone is good at something.” Jacky

* “It has a theme of kindness.” Carmen

* “It also has a theme of courage.” Truman

* “There is a lot about caring – caring for the plant, caring for someone. . .” Catriona

A gem of a book. Set in a classroom, it does explore many important themes relevant in a primary classroom: envy, friendship, forgiveness, competition, desicion making, etc. And perfect to supplement a unit on growing seeds. We made lots of connections to the plants we are growing in our windowsill gardens!