Childrens Book Reading Extravaganza 2010: Picture Books 36-32

Well, my friends, it’s August.  August.  AUGUST.  Are the back-to-school commercials haunting you where you live yet?

I’m hoping that curling up with these lovely Top 100 picture books each week is helping you to get your minds ready for classrooms and your book lists ready for imminent purchase.  While shopping for back-to-school supplies for my students occasionally made me feel…well…um…I’ll be out with it…(ahem) bitter, the myriad of trips to Barnsey to buy picture book after picture book after picture book after…

Well, you get the point.  Buying all those picture books somehow never EVER made me feel anything but joyful.  (Mr. Mimi might describe the feeling in other terms but really?  He’s not a teacher…)

On with the countdown!

Today, at #36 is The Stinky Cheese Man and Other Fairly Stupid Tales  by Jon Scieszka.  Coming from a family who appreciates and consumes all things cheese (Seriously, I should give you a glimpse into Big Mama Mimi’s fridge…), I have to say, the title alone sounds promising.  (I know, gather yourselves.  Mrs. Mimi has never read this book before.)  (And can you say Caldecott book, y’all?)

The Stinky Cheese Man and Other Fairly Stupid Tales (Click on the images for links and don’t hold back!)

This book has ten completely hilarious versions of classic fairy tales.  Think “Chicken Licken,” “The Really Ugly Duckling,” and “Jack’s Bean Problem.”  Each fairy tale adaptation feels familiar yet has a funny twist that makes you think about it in a new light.  Plus, each fairy tale is accompanied by the most gorgeous paintings by Lane Smith.  A-MAZE-BALLS.  I mean, use it for a unit on writing or reading fairy tales, use it to compare and contrast with classic versions (Venn Diagram, say wha?) or save them to read individually in those spare moments when you just want to laugh together.  This book is a Must Add to your classroom library.

Number 35 is an old classic.  (At least old by my terms…sorry if I offend any of thee…)  I used to have this story on record. (Did she say record?)  (Yes, she did.  On RECORD.) (Would it make it cooler if I said, “On Vinyl”?)  I would listen to it all the time.  Fisher Price style.  It’s Tikki Tikki Tembo by Arlene Mosel!  I can still hear the dude who read this reciting Tikki’s name with that little rhythm he used….(nerdy sigh here).

Tikki Tikki Tembo

A long time ago in China, parents gave their first born sons long fabulous names, while their second sons barely got the time of day.  Tikki Tikki is clearly the first born while Chang was totally second fiddle. One day, Chang falls into a well and their mother, upon hearing the news, can barely look up to deal with the situation.  However, months later, Tikki falls in the well.  Chang tries to tell someone, but Tikki’s name is so freaking long that he runs out of breath and no one understands what he is saying.  Because he is clever, Chang gets the message across and eventually Tikki is rescued.  And now, all children are given shorter, more sensible names.

This is just such a great folktale.  I love the ending but I also love the middle.  For some reason, I just can’t get over the image of Chang trying to spit out his brother’s name (complete with the little rhythm).  I would absolutely use this with my class during a unit on Folktales, but think it would also be another great choice to just enjoy together on those days when all you can handle is reading a book together. 

Oh, friends.  OH MY FRIENDS!  I think I have adequately expressed my love for strong, independent female characters in picture books and this character definitely fits the bill!  I heart her.  And her flair for drama.  I feel as if we may be kindred spirits.  #34 is Olivia by Ian Falconer.


I heart Olivia and her Caldecott.  Olivia is a very active little pig who is clearly bright and not interested in what other people think.  This book follows Olivia through a few daily adventures with her family from getting dressed (so many choices!), to going to the beach and building a perfect replica of the Empire State building.  Olivia hates naps and occasionally does some very naughty things such as paint on the walls of her room.  Despite all her drama and mischief, the story ends with her mother tucking Olivia in, telling her she loves her anyway and Olivia dreaming of someday becoming a diva. 

I used to use this puppy for so many reasons in my classroom.  One way that worked particularly well was to initiate a character study and discuss what we have learned about Olivia using the text as evidence.  For example, one of my small fries observed that Olivia is bossy and cited a specific scene with her little brother Ian which was fab.  Kids love Olivia.  I love Olivia.  I’m sure you will love Olivia too once you introduce her to your class.  This is one I could read again and again and my kids would totally listen.

OOOOOO!!!!  This list just keeps getting better and better!!  My faves are everywhere this week!  At #33 is Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs  by Judi and Ron Barrett.   I mean, can you think of a more fun little art project than drawing a scene from this book?  Well, imagine turning it into a WHOLE CLASS MURAL complete with actual FOOD!  (Yea, I could be a pretty rad teacher from time to time.)

Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs

Two kids love the stories their grandfather tells, particularly the stories about the town of Chewandswallow where the people eat the food that falls from the sky three times a day.  It rains orange juice, storms hot dogs and there are ice cream breezes.  UNTIL…the weather takes a turn for the worse and starts getting larger and larger.  Your friends will LOVE the part where a giant pancake falls on the school and it has to close!  Eventually the people of Chewandswallow need to leave and they sail away to a new home on giant PB&Js.  The next morning, when it snows, the children imagine piles of mashed potatoes while they’re sledding…

Who doesn’t love this book?  Seriously.  Find me that person.  I think this book is creative and fabulous and was always one of my favorites to share with my friends.  The best?  Read this prior to a substitute coming in (you want to read this one yourself, trust me), pass out huge pieces of white paper and (while the sub is there) let them draw their own scene from Chewandswallow making up all kinds of food related storms.  I always got the sub-report that my friends were silent and engaged for 45 minutes.  Viola!  The perfect sub plan…easy to set up, easy for the sub, easy for you!  

Before we move on, I have to admit something here as well.  One night, Mr. Mimi and I rented the movie version from OnDemand.  (Pre-Mini Mimi….) (I know!)  While I didn’t love how little the story stuck to the book – imagine added characters, a whole bunch of sub-plots about greed, being yourself, etc – we really did enjoy the movie.  I’m thinking perfect for right before the end of the school year when you’ve all had it or even pre-Winter Holiday break treat??

And in #32 we have Click Clack Moo, Cows That Type by Doreen Cronin.  (Pssst…this book is also a Caldecott award winner!) I discovered this book later in my teaching career and LO-O-OVED using it with my friends.  I mean, cows that can TYPE?  Does it get any more hilarious?  And hello?  Beautiful segway into persuasive writing much?

Click, Clack, Moo: Cows That Type

Okay.  So there are these cows that type.  (Which you should have gotten from the title, but anyway…) and they type a letter to the farmer asking for electric blankets because it’s cold in the barn at night.  The farmer, annoyed with their typing AND their request says no.  So, the cows stop giving milk.  AND THEN…they have the balls to ask for blankets for the chickens too.  (Love it!)  Clearly, the farmer is not pleased, so he types a letter in return saying that there will be no electric blankets until he gets milk and eggs.  In the end, the animals and the farmer strike a deal BUT…soon the farmer gets a letter from the ducks requesting a diving board.

I mean, can you say fabulous?  Fabulous on so many levels.  There is a slightly predictable text combined with an ending ripe for continuing the story in your classroom.  (Shared Writing, say whaaaa?)  Then there’s the whole element connected to persuasive writing, which is just fantastic.  Plus, the story is generally hilarious, which is always a bonus.

This week was just so satisfying!  So many fantastic titles!!  I mean, my debit card would be smoking if I didn’t already own all of these!!

Happy reading my fellow book nerds.  Get your August on and enjoy every last second.


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  • Haha, these books sound awesome! I vaguely remember some of them from when I was young, which is fun. 🙂

    August 7, 2010 at 5:09 pm
  • Stinky Cheese Man and Click Clack Moo are two of my favorites. I even find ways to use them with my middle schoolers!

    August 7, 2010 at 5:09 pm
  • Tikki Tikki Tembo = favorite picture book of all time. In fact, I never read this book anymore, I tell it from memory. Lovely. I read this with my students regularly & they all know it's my favorite. It's the book I use to introduce the idea: "That's what's so great about books! You can read them over & over & over." So that by the end of the year, kids are repeating this by rote when we bust out a previously enjoyed story.

    August 7, 2010 at 5:09 pm
  • These are 5 of my all-time favorites!!!

    August 7, 2010 at 11:35 pm
  • What a great list this week! Though I don't love reading Stinky Cheese Man aloud, it is a fan fave and I have two ratty copies because kids look through it so much!

    August 9, 2010 at 2:03 am
  • OMG! You managed to pick my 5-year-old's favorite books… well almost all of them. My kids all love to chant Rikki Tikki Tembo — Love that Book. The Stinky Cheese Man is just so darn funny that it is great for adults and kids. Olivia is really a great personality that my middle related to. Click, Clack, Moo is wonderful and we've enjoyed all the sequels including Duck for President, and Giggle, Giggle, Quack.

    Thanks for the post.

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

    August 10, 2010 at 8:16 pm
  • And should it ever be relevant, Click, Clack, Moo is an excellent introduction to unions and striking.
    (NOT, of course, that it would EVER be relevant in your classroom…)

    August 11, 2010 at 10:16 pm

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