Childrens Book Reading Extravaganza 2010: Picture Books # 56- #52

We are almost at the halfway point people!  And it’s not too late to join in the fun…check out the list I’m using of the Top 100 Picture Books.  It’s pretty hot.  Could be a rockin’ thing to do with that sum-sum-summertime stretched out before you.  (Of course, if you decide to, I don’t know, do something for YOURSELF, I totally get that too…you deserve it!  Get a pedicure!  Watch bad TV!  Work in your garden!  Have a cocktail before noon!)

That being said, at #56 we have my wonderful friend Leo Lionni with Frederick  and his Caldecott award.  I know I freaked out when Swimmy made an appearance earlier on the list, but it was well deserved.  Lionni = fan-freaking-tastic.

Frederick and His Friends: Four Favorite Fables (Treasured Gifts for the Holidays) (I’m including a link to a group of four fabulous fables since the link for Frederick as an individual text says it costs $38 or something insane like that.  I mean, I may loves me some Leo Lionni, but $38 for a paperback?  I don’t think so…)

 Frederick is a rather eccentric mouse.  While all the other mice are busy gathering supplies for the winter, Frederick is gathering colors, sunshine and words.  That winter, after the mice have eaten their way through all their supplies and are feeling cold, they turn to Frederick and ask him about all the things he had been gathering.  He has the other mice close their eyes as he leads them in imagining all the colors, sunshine and words of summer, which makes everyone feel better.

I mean, at first you may think this book is going the way of the Little Red Hen or The Ant and The Grasshopper, but really, Frederick was doing some important work for his fellow mice.  In my opinion, he helps us remember that a creative spirit and beauty are just as important as all the things we typically think of in terms of survival.  (Mrs. Mimi is getting deep, y’all.)  This is a fun one to discuss with your friends – see what they think Frederick is trying to teach us.  You may be surprised with the wisdom that pops out. 

And as #55 we have the uber-classic The Little Engine That Could by Watty P
iper. This book has been around longer than I have and I’m fairly certain we all at least know this story, even if we’ve never actually read the book.

The Little Engine That Could mini

A train filled with fabulous toys and delicious food for a bunch of boys and girls gets stalled before it reaches it’s final destinations.  The toys plead with various train engines that are passing by, but each engine is too important, too busy or too selfish to bother helping. Finally, a little engine comes along and although she is afraid she isn’t small enough, she tries to help.  She chugs along saying, “I think I can, I think I can…” and clearly, saves the day.

A timeless story about helping others which totes reminds me of the Little Red Hen but with less grains of wheat and more train.  This would make a lovely read aloud for your kindergarten friends, but probably couldn’t hold the attention of friends who are much older.

Okay.  #54, here we come!  It’s The Three Pigs by David Wiesner.  (This author totally won me over with Flotsam, so I’m pumped to see his take on the classic pigs.  Plus, so far on this list, boyfriend is two for two in the Caldecott department.)

The Three Pigs

I mean, NO WONDER this guy has a ton of Caldecott awards lining his shelf!  Can you say genius?  The book starts off as a traditional story of the three little pigs, but then…OH THEN!  The wolf, during all his huffing and puffing, blows the pigs right out of the story! And then they fold the pages up  into a paper airplane and fly away.  (I am NOT making this up.  I swear.)  They then proceed to walk in and out of various other fairy tales where they befriend a dragon and a rabbit.  They end up all going back to the pig’s brick house, and enjoying a lovely dinner together, safe from the wolf.

Talk about fabulous.  Talk about creative.  Talk about…I mean, just talk about this one!  I feel like every elementary school teacher everywhere does the fairy tale comparison thing at one time or another and this book would be perf to compare and contrast a variety of Three Little Pig stories.  What a way to put a spin on a classic.  I think I’m developing a legitimate crush on this guy.  Watch out!

At #53 is The Snowman by Raymond Briggs.   Yet another new picture book for Mrs. Mimi!
The Snowman (Step-Into-Reading, Step 1)

Spoiler alert!  This book has no words!  (Did she say, “no words?”) Yes, she did!  This book has no words.  It is told entirely through illustrations.  (Reminding me of my beloved Pancakes for Breakfast by Tomie dePaola…sigh.)  In a nutshell, a little boy builds a snowman.  The next day, he invites the snowman into his house to play (and the snowman discovers all sorts of things like stoves, fridges, and balloons).  Then, the snowman and the boy go out for a drive (evidently he is older than 16), have some dinner together before having a flying adventure.  Very planes, trains and automobiles. In the end, the snowman delivers the boy home safely, they say good bye and the next morning, the snowman is gone.

I say, use this book with friends PreK through grade 2.  Easy!  For our mini-friends, this book would be a great opportunity to tell a story through pictures and learn the importance of illustrations.  You could even use the pictures to generate a hot little shared writing to get their story writing ability flowing!  For our first and second grade friends, this book would be great to practice some oral story telling, to inspire a shared writing OR to practice coming up with related dialogue, rich descriptions of action OR even the setting.  TALK ABOUT ENDLESS POSSIBILITIES!!!  Sometimes saying less totally is saying more.

(A lesson which is tough for those wordy folk like yours truly…)

And, to close out our Saturday O Picture Book Fun, we have Miss Nelson is Missing by James Marshall at #52.  I mean, who hasn’t  read this book?!

Miss Nelson Is Missing!

I’ll sum this one up briefly – since I am fairly certain this one isn’t new for most of you.  Miss Nelson can not control her class (Girlfriend is far too sweet.) but one day, she is absent and Miss Viola Swamp is a won’t-take-anyone’s-crap kind of sub.  (A woman after my own heart.)  The kids are whipped into shape and begin to miss Miss Nelson  (and realizing they have been taking her fabulous self for granted…).  They worry that she’ll never come back.  But, she does and the kids are so appreciative that they never misbehave again.  At the end, we’re left wondering if Miss Nelson and Miss Swamp are really one in the same…

I mean, don’t we all have an inner Miss Nelson and an inner Miss Swamp?  Let’s be honest with ourselves…we SO do.  Usually, the one who showed up in my classroom on any given day could be directly related to, if not predicted by, the amount of coffee I had had that morning.

Reading this book to friends who have never seen it before is A-MAZ-ING!  I mean, the looks on their faces when they think they have the whole thing figured out is priceless!  Sadly, if you teach second grade on up, they’ve probably already heard it, but they still love it the second (third?) time too.  
So, totally fab read aloud for your class…great to get a good debate going!!  Debate if you think they are both the same lady, debate which teacher you think is a better teacher, debate your faces off!  This puppy would also make a good independent/guided reading text for your friends.  According to this fabulous Leveled Book List, Miss Nelson is a level L.  Totally perf for your smarty first graders, on target second graders or need-some-support third graders.  But, then again, you know your kids better than I do.

Are your Barnsey shopping lists getting as long as mine?  I hope so…I mean, it’s a given that we’re all going to end up sinking our hard earned dollars into our own classrooms…it might as well be on books!!


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  • Oh how I LOVE The Three Pigs! I've done many units with fairy tales and I love finding new versions of favorite stories. This one is top notch (not so top notch is The Three Little Wolves and the Big Bad Pig–needlessly violent).

    July 12, 2010 at 3:21 pm
  • I LOVE Miss Nelson is Missing! I always use it on the first day of school to help set the tone for rules in the class and what could happen if they are disrespectful. I also love when the kids think they have it figured out and then they read the other books in the series and their predictions are shattered!

    July 12, 2010 at 3:21 pm

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