Children’s Book Reading Extravaganza 2010: Picture Books #96-92

Hollaaaaa!  Time for more picture books from the list of Top 100 Children’s Picture Books!  (If you missed last weekend’s edition, click here. I hope you have your coffee and a pen ready for some serious list making!!  This is quickly becoming my favorite time of the week.

Starting us off this morning at #96 is The Very Quiet Cricket by Eric Carle.  I think I need to be up front with you and say that I have an intense obsession with Eric Carle’s illustrations.  My friends and I created our own collage paper a la Mr. Carle, made murals a la Mr. Carle and went on a field trip to see honest to goodness pieces of art by this wonderful genius.  *nerdy sigh*

The Very Quiet Cricket (Click on image for links, but don’t blame me when the credit card bill comes.)

So this book is just plain fabulous.  Not only is Eric Carle’s artwork A-MAZ-ING, the story is sweet to boot.  A little cricket is born and is welcomed to the world by a bigger cricket, a locus, a cicada and a bunch of other insects.  However, he is sad that when he rubs his little wings together, there is no sound.  At the end of the story, after meeting another quiet cricket, this little cricket finds his voice.  Yes friends, this is the Eric Carle book that makes noise at the end which is cute but you will quickly find that YOUR little friends love to open up directly to this page so that it chirps and chirps and chirps and chirps until you want to poke yourself in the eye or the battery dies.  (Word on the street is that the battery is replaceable.)  This story has a lovely repetitive text that is great for your new readers too!  So use it as a shared reading, as part of an author study, to inspire illustrations or to introduce a unit on insects to your younger friends.  I mean, does it get any better? 

In position #95 is The Gardener by Sarah Stewart.  (I totally heart The Library also by Ms. Stewart.)

The Gardener

This story takes place in 1935 and ’36.  Lydia Grace is sent to live with her Uncle Jim, who owns a bakery, while her parents struggle to make ends meet.  The story is told through letters written by Lydia Grace. Lydia Grace loves to garden, and is working hard at the bakery but notices her Uncle Jim never smiles.  Soon she discovers a “secret place” (I’ll blow her secret, it’s the roof of the building.) and starts planning a surprise to make her Uncle smile.  The garden is GORGEOUS (Insert me lamenting my own lack of a green thumb here) and although he never smiles, Lydia’s Uncle makes her a gorgeous cake “worth a thousand smiles.”  (And I mean, who wouldn’t take a huge, delicious slice of chocolate over a smile any day of the week?)  I really liked that this story was told exclusively through letters – it leaves a lot of great opportunities to look at illustrations and role play possible conversations between characters.  Plus, it’s a super cute story too.  I’d say first or second graders would enjoy this one for sure.

Coming in at #94 is The Little Mouse, The Red Ripe Strawberry, and The Big Hungry Bear by Don and Audrey Wood.  Another one I haven’t encountered before- I’m starting to question my level of dedication to my children’s book addiction and wonder how someone could have spent SO MUCH MONEY on SO MANY BOOKS and be completely unaware of many of the top 10…

The Little Mouse, the Red Ripe Strawberry and the Big Hungry Bear (Child's Play Library)

A little mouse climbs a ladder to get a dee-lish looking strawberry when the narrator warns him of the big, hungry Bear’s love of strawberries. The mouse picks the berry but is basically a nervous wreck as he scoots it back to his house and tries to hide it.  The narrator tells the mouse that the only way to be safe is to cut the strawberry in two and share half with him.  (We’re not going to delve into the deeply rooted psychological issues that make me immediately assume that the narrator is a man…at least not this morning.)  The hungry bear never makes an appearance and you are left wondering if the narrator pulled one over on the cute, little mouse.  I mean, the poor thing was sweating and everything.  It’s really kind of sad.  However, the simple text is fantastic and there are many places in the text to stop and try to imagine what the mouse is thinking – can you say hot comprehension opportunity?

So #93 is The Giving Tree by Shel Silverstein.  I mean, is there a person who HASN’T read this book?  Although I have heard a HUGE range of opinions on this one, it is a total classic.  Plus Big Mama Mimi gave me a copy with an inscription when I was a kid…

The Giving Tree 40th Anniversary Edition Book with CD

I feel ridiculous even summarizing this one.  Boy meets tree.  Tree loves boy.  Boy loves tree.  Boy grows up, ignores tree.  Tree is sad.  Boy’s life falls to crap.  Boy takes tree for everything she’s got.  Boy ends up sitting on stump and at last they are together again.  (I guess that was the more negative stance.)  Read another way, this is an amazing story about the unconditional love of a true friend.  Could be a good little debate with your older kiddos….

Rounding out our five books for this weekend is Swimmy by Leo Lionni.  Again, a word of warning against my INSANE bias for I heart this man and his books.  I love the stories, I love the illustrations, I love it love it love it.  Consider yourself warned.

Swimmy (Knopf Children's Paperbacks)
Best. Story.  Ever. Swimmy is the only black fish in a school of red fish.  One day, a big fish comes along and eats all the little red fish.  Only Swimmy survives.  Swimmy goes off on his own and sees many beautiful sea creatures (eels, jellyfish, and lobsters to name a few).  He finds another school of little red fish, who are hiding because they are also afraid of getting eaten. Swimmy tells them that this is no way to live and comes up with a plan.  Soon the little red fish are swimming in a formation to look like one giant fish, with Swimmy as the eye.  They scared all the big fish away.

I mean, COME ON!  Talk about creative problem solving. Did Swimmy just run and complain to the teacher?  Um, no, he solved his own problem!  I say, use this as an example for your friends who are struggling with this life skill.  Also, Leo Lionni makes for a great author study, has beautiful illustrations to use as inspiration and makes a mean read aloud.  Talk about meaty book conversations!  Also, if you want to use it as a guided reading text, this book is about an L (if you are all Fountas and Pinnell times.)  Oh, and did I mention that this is a Caldecott Award Winning book?  Ha-cha-cha!

That’s it for this weekend, peeps.  Grab your library card (or credit card…hey, clearly I understand the addiction) and GO!

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  • I LOVE Swimmy!! We did an author study and art project on him when I taught second grade. My favorite was finger painting using a stencil of the chameleon in A Color of his Own.=)

    I'm one of the people who doesn't like The Giving Tree. The first time I read it (which was in college!) it just didn't sit right. Then the prof explained the whole "exploiting his mother" angle and it clicked. What can I say, I don't like Love You Forever, either! (It's creepy, and kids don't get nostalgia anyway.)

    May 16, 2010 at 4:12 am
  • I'm not a fan of The Giving Tree either. I have a friend who had a reading of it in her wedding ceremony (sadly, it was a pretty accurate description of their relationship, with the husband being the tree). The pastor ran with it, though, and told them that by the end of their lives, they should both be old stumps, having given the best of themselves to each other.

    May 16, 2010 at 1:00 pm
  • Am imagining being referred to as an "old stump" as I stand in my wedding dress….not the look I think your friend was probably going for…

    May 16, 2010 at 1:01 pm
  • The Little Mouse…Oh how I love that book…The narrator's part makes it one of the most fun books to read aloud ever. It's always fun to see which students begin to question who is really talking to the mouse…and what's their angle!

    May 16, 2010 at 7:16 pm
  • I love the Red Ripe Strawberry!!! Seriously, I think it's in my top 5- who wouldn't love the picture of the strawberry in disguise? Don and Audrey Wood are fantastic; try "King Bidgood's in the Bathtub" for a great read-aloud, too. 🙂

    May 17, 2010 at 11:29 am
  • If you love Eric Carle and other picture book art – please come visit us at The Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art in Amherst, MA. We'd love to see you!

    May 17, 2010 at 2:10 pm
  • Big Hungry Bear is one of my most well-loved books in my library–always needed more book tape to replace the fallen page. Every year, every class, my kids LOVE this book!

    May 18, 2010 at 1:29 am
  • I would like to share my list of Favorite Picture Books that You've Never Heard of at

    I love picture books too!

    Pragmatic Mom
    Type A Parenting for the Modern World
    I blog on children's lit, education and parenting.

    May 18, 2010 at 4:04 pm
  • We love The Little Mouse book in our house – this is a recording of our two-year-old reading it to us

    May 20, 2010 at 3:53 pm

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