Tuesday, August 10, 2010


Cathy Mere, author of MORE THAN GUIDED READING and blogger at  Reflect and Refine:  Building a Learning Community, in cooperation with Mandy at Enjoy and Embrace Learning,  invited/challenged members of the Kidlitosphere blogging community to come up with ten picture books they couldn't teach without. What a challenge!  Both women shared brilliant posts about setting criteria for choosing books for the classroom, (here and here) pragmatic pearls of wisdom that are better than anything you could read in a textbook, and definitely worth your consideration as someone investing in and creating a collection to be shared with young minds.

Of course, I have so many old favorites and new ones every day (posted at The PlanetEsme Plan), but I tried to embrace the "if you were on a desert island" nature of the project.  By thinking of "must-haves" month by month, I managed to cull my list of thousands, though I still managed to bend the rules a little (qui, moi?) with some runner-ups.  I know, I know...my rationale is that I come at teaching from a school librarian perspective, and don't I need back-ups, in case the classroom teacher already has the title in her planbook?  From a school librarian's perspective, as I rifled through years of lesson plans, I realized I looked for books that:
  • were seasonal (like fresh fruits and vegetables!);
  • lent themselves to crafts, discussions, performances and other extensions;
  • were great read-alouds;
  • were funny or gently ironic;
  • could engage a large group, and invited children to join in;
  • had themes of inclusivity;
  • allowed children to exercise their empathetic imaginations. 
And so, taken straight from the planbook, I present
Picture Books I Would Not Want To Teach Without (K-3):

Fall Is Not Easy1. FALL IS NOT EASY by Marty Kelley
WOLF! by Becky Bloom
THE BIG HONEY HUNT by Stan and Jan Berenstain
THE HARD-TIMES JAR by Ethel Footman Smothers, illustrated by John Holyfield
ONE by Kathryn Otoshi
THE LIBRARY LION by Michelle Knudsen, illustrated by Kevin Hawkes
ONE GREEN APPLE by Even Bunting, illustrated by Ted Lewin
HERE COMES THE CAT! by Vladimir Vagin, illustrated by Frank Asch

The Sneetches and Other Stories3. "What Was I Scared Of?" in THE SNEETCHES AND OTHER STORIES by Dr. Seuss (reading all of the book, while I'm at it)
HECKEDY PEG by Don and Audrey Wood
STELLALUNA by Janell Cannon
THE DEVIL AND MOTHER CRUMP by Valerie Scho Carey, illustrated by Arnold Lobel

The Big Orange Splot4. THE BIG ORANGE SPLOT by Daniel Pinkwater
THANK YOU, SARAH:  THE WOMAN WHO SAVED THANKSGIVING by Laurie Halse Anderson, illustrated by Matt Faulkner
SEQUOYAH by James Rumford
THE GRIFFIN AND THE MINOR CANON by Frank Stockton, illustrated by Maurice Sendak
THE GUNNIWOLF by  Wilhelmina Harper (another edition here)
STREGA NONA by Tomie DePaola
MISS SUZY by Miriam Young, illustrated by Arnold Lobel

The Little Match Girl5. THE LITTLE MATCH GIRL by Hans Christian Anderson, illustrated by Rachel Isadora
6. THE GINGERBREAD BOY by Paul Galdone
THE POLAR EXPRESS by Chris Van Allsburg (if it hasn't been shared already)
ANTONELLA AND HER SANTA CLAUS by Barbara Augustin, illustrated by Gerhard Lahr
IN THE MONTH OF KISLEV by Nina Jaffe, illustrated by Louise August
(More holiday children's books here, just FYI)

Snowflake Bentley7. SNOWFLAKE BENTLEY by Jaqueline Briggs Martin, illustrated by Mary Azarian
HARVESTING HOPE:  THE STORY OF CESAR CHAVEZ by Kathleen Krull, illustrated by Yuyi Morales
HENRY'S FREEDOM BOX by Ellen Levine, illustrated by Kadir Nelson
ROCKS IN HIS HEAD by Carol Otis Hurst, illustrated by James Stevenson
THE MITTEN by Jan Brett

Lovable Lyle (Lyle the Crocodile)8. LOVABLE LYLE by Bernard Waber
ANANSI THE SPIDER by Gerald McDermott
SHOW WAY by Jacqueline Woodson, illustrated by Hudson Talbott
AND TANGO MAKES THREE by Peter Parnell,  illustrated by Henry Cole
WHAT'S SO FUNNY, KETU? by Verna Aardema, illustrated by Marc Brown
CAROLINDA CLATTER by Mordicai Gerstein

The Empty Pot9.  THE EMPTY POT by Demi
THE TINY SEED by Eric Carle
HARVEY POTTER'S BALLOON FARM by Jerdine Nolen, illustrated by Mark Buehner
THE DOT by Peter Reynolds
A KICK IN THE HEAD:  AN EVERYDAY GUIDE TO POETIC FORMS by Paul Janeczko, illustrated by Chris Raschka

The Happy Rain10. THE HAPPY RAIN by Jack Sendak, illustrated by Maurice Sendak
WESLANDIA by Paul Fleischman
THE WRETCHED STONE by Chris Van Allsburg
THUNDERCAKE by Patricia Polacco
THE RAINBABIES by Laura Krauss Melmed, illustrated by Jim LaMarche
EVERY TIME I CLIMB A TREE by David McCord, illustrated by Marc Simont
ELMER by David McKee

Oops, I ran out of numbers before I ran out of months!  That's okay, there are plenty in the runners-up lists to supplement.  When I look at this list, I see ten highlighted titles and dozens more that if I went through the school year and did not know that they had been shared, I would be dissatisfied that the children had received the best there is to offer.  For favorite chapter books for the intermediate grades, please look on the right-hand column of this blog. I also realized, as a school librarian with a responsibility for media literacy, that besides books, there were certain multimedia productions that I would need to show for a joyful K-3 education to seem complete.

The Red Balloon (Released by Janus Films, in association with the Criterion Collection)Morris the Moose Goes to School (stop action)
The Three Robbers (animation)
Corduroy (live action)
The Adventures of Curious George (stop action)
The Fool of the World and the Flying Ship (stop action)
Willie Wonka and the Chocolate Factory (live action)
The Red Balloon (live action)

The Keeping Quilt   [KEEPING QUILT] [Paperback]The Paper Crane (Reading Rainbow Book)What I learned from this exercise is that even though I love new books and movies, there are definitely classics upon which I have come to depend.  I also recognized that tastes in titles are very subjective; the books I absolutely must share will likely be different from what another teacher prioritizes.  In a way, looking at a list of favorite books is like looking into a mirror.  When I shared/brainstormed my list with the fourteen-year teaching veteran who was the model for Miss Pointy in SAHARA SPECIAL, she cried, "oh, how can you not include Robert San Souci's THE TALKING EGGS!  Or Patricia Polacco's THE KEEPING QUILT or PINK AND SAY, are you crazy? I'd need THE PAPER CRANE, it's my favorite, and A NEW COAT FOR ANNA is great in the first grade for teaching sequencing.  Pinkney's version of THE UGLY DUCKLING is so beautiful. And isn't there some lovely edition of AESOP'S FABLES you could share?" As she rattled off her (very excellent) list, having known her in the classroom, I saw how well-matched they were to her teaching delivery style and what a personal reflection these choices were.  Just as she could see my sense of humor and desire for justice in the books I chose, I could see her love of making things by hand and her appreciation of family acceptance and tradition in the ones she picked. There is no way, when teachers have the freedom to share what they love, that teaching can become generic. This freedom is precious.  Children with teachers who enjoy this flexibility and spontaneity will be exposed to a wide variety of beautiful and important ideas and images, and be stirred to live a life that mirrors art.  In other words, this freedom speaks to the main idea and best advice in the first year teacher's guide in the new edition of EDUCATING ESME:
Educating Esmé: Diary of a Teacher's First Year, Expanded Edition"Think about why you are a teacher in terms of what you have to share...Infuse your teaching with your unique passions and personality--that's what will make you a teacher the students will always remember and what will inspire your students to follow your lead, embracing life and becoming true learners."
What ten books are you most excited to bring to the classroom table this year?  In combination, what do they say about you as a teacher and as a person?  I can't wait to see which titles are chosen, here in the comments section and across the Kidlitosphere.  
Happy back to school!