If you want to teach me to write, first you have to love me. ~AVI

Friday, August 10, 2012

Ten Picture Books and Authors That I LOVE

For the past two August 10th's, I have enjoyed the celebration of picture books, so I thought it was about time for me to participate. A great big thank you to the girls who started and continue the August 10 for 10 tradition. Cheers to bloggers Mandy from Enjoy and Embrace Learning and Cathy from Reflect & Refine: Building a Learning Community and all the book lovers who spread the picture book love.

Each morning this week, I settled down with my morning coffee to peruse some picture books that I had brought home for the summer. My initial plan was to ponder their use as writing mentors and reading mini lessons. This stack was a fine place for me to start my list of 10.

My love affair with picture books is nothing new. It started during a children’s literature course when I was working on a preschool associate’s degree in the early 80’s and really exploded when I took my first little bookworm daughter to the library. She’s now 27 and a book loving, book collecting teacher!

You could very well be thinking…so what’s your point here? Well, this thinking led me to think about my criteria for choosing books and realize that it is varied , but definitely starts with
·       A LOVE for the book
And continues with…
  • ·       Beautiful language – words and phrases that invite us pause, linger, and often return to the book later
  • ·       Strong characters, often spunky, brave, or inspirational
  • ·       Characters or people that readers care about
  • ·       Illustrations that complement the words, like that perfect accessory that pulls an outfit together
  • ·       Stretches our thinking – elicits a reaction
  • ·       Makes us want to be better people
  • ·       Makes us wonder and often times sends us on a research mission
* Sorry that I do not have images of books. Having an issue...anyway the titles are links to books on Amazon. Thanks for stopping by! *

1 ~ Miss Rumphius story & pictures by Barbara Cooney

            This beautiful book tells a story of Alice’s dedication to fulfill the commitment she made to her grandfather. Alice travels to faraway places, lives by the sea, but needs to find a way to make the word a beautiful place. I have used this book to get students thinking about the seemingly little things each of us can do to make the world a better place, starting with our classroom community. Last year, Miss Rumphius was the book our class chose to focus on during “Kindness Week.” The door to the classroom turned into a field of lupines, as we sprinkled the seeds of kindness. 

2 ~ The Purple Coat by Amy Hest pictures by Amy Schwartz
             I love Gabrielle, who goes by Gabby! This simple, yet sweet story about a “new coat” tradition and trying new things is definitely a tale we can relate to. I love the warm relationships between Gabby, her mom, and her Grampa. Gabby has a lot of spunk. Like many children, she knows what she wants. I have never thought of this before, but I could see using this book anytime during the school year when students get stuck in a rut. Perhaps students need a nudge to branch out to other genres in reading or writing. It would also make a writing mentor when working on word choice. There is strong description, vivid verbs, and dialog to study and emulate.

3 ~ Wilma Unlimited by Kathleen Krull Illustrated by David Diaz

While my list is far from a balanced, I definitely wanted to include at least a couple non-fiction selections. I like to start the year with inspirational characters, especially real people. In history, the men get so much of our attention, it’s important to feature women who worked hard to overcome challenges and make the world a better place. Wilma Rudolph was born in 1940, survived a disease that often killed children, rose above discrimination, and went on be an Olympic track star. This book is in my back to school stack!

4 ~ All the Places to Love by Patricia MacLachlan, paintings by Mike Wimmer

This beautiful book is one of my favorite writing mentors. Each family member shares her love of a special place around the family farm. I love the outdoors and my writing is often a reflection of that. The illustrations are breath taking in a peaceful way. It’s not a showy book. It’s more like favorite broken-in quilt or a home-cooked soup. It’s a feel-good book. Patricia MacLachlan sprinkles in stunning similes at just the right place, like a chef who uses the perfect balance of spices to season that soup.

5 ~ Thank You, Mr. Falker  by Patricia Polacco
I can’t think of a more inspirational story for the classroom and to learn Trisha, the main character, who struggles for years to learn to read, is the true story of Patricia Polacco. Like we’ve come to expect from Polacco’s books, there are many opportunities for rich discussions, inferencing, and lingering over interesting word choice.

6 ~ Let’s Go Home by Cynthia Rylant illustrated by Wendy Anderson Halperin

This is another writing mentor that my 4th grade writers and I return to many times throughout the year. Like All the Places to Love, it feels good to read this book. It’s a tour through the cozy rooms of beloved home. I like reading it also because it reminds me that it’s not all about the fancy, new improvements that we save for and fret about. I appreciate the memories that our aging 23-year-old house holds. It’s the little things that make a house a home. The book bursts with beautiful word choice. Mentor sentences and paragraphs abound. And on a more practical level, pages are organized with topic sentences, details, and satisfying closing sentences.

7 ~ Butterfly Eyes andother Secrets of the Meadow by Joyce Sidman illustrated by Beth Krommes

I choose this book primarily for two reasons: it’s fine, fine poetry and intriguing non-fiction. Joyce Sidman does a beautiful job at writing about nature, often times the lesser-known beauties. This collection of poems that explores the meadow in a riddle-like format, but don’t let that fool you, they are quite sophisticated. Each poem includes additional facts with a glossary of science terms in the back of the book.

8 ~ Red Sings fromTreetops a year in colors by Joyce Sidman illustrated by Pamela Zagarenski

I will never tire of reading this lovely book, lingering over the luring language and the lovely illustrations. It’s one of those books where you can’t imagine any other art adorning the pages. The word choice is amazing, sometimes surprising, yet perfect. It’s poetic. No surprise that this book has helped me teach writing, specifically word choice and personification. It has also inspired seasonal color poems and been a text for modeling inferential thinking.

9 ~ The Other Side by Jacqueline Woodson illustrations by E.B. Lewis

I chose this book because it demonstrates the power of kindness, accepting others, and building bridges. The story is set in a segregated community, in a neighborhood where children play on their side of the fence. Annie, a white girl and Clover, a girl from the black side of the fence watch each other, but don’t speak for quite some time. When they do, the fence becomes a meeting place for the two of them. Eventually they play together and others join them on the fence. While today, it’s hard to imagine this way of life, there are lessons to be learned and many places in the world that have fences to be taken down.

10 ~ Owl Moon by Jane Yolen illustrated by John Schoenherr

This beloved treasure was first published in 1987 and won the Caldecott Medal the following year. I have loved this book for a long time. Jane Yolen’s stellar similes and word choice create and sustain a magical feeling throughout the book as a young girl and her dad venture out on a cold winter night to go owling. From the beautiful beginning to the satisfying ending, this book is a jewel in my basket of favorites. After enjoying a first reading, I have most often returned to the text for a writing model.


  1. I love the feel of gentleness and serenity from the books you've listed. Lovely selection. I, too, include a Joyce Sidman.
    Thank you.
    Apples with Many Seeds

  2. I think you've chosen some of my favorite authors and books too-Rylant, Yolen, Polacco, Woodson. I don't know the Sidman books as well so will put them on the list for future looking. I discovered Thank You, Mr. Falker just this past year & agree it's quite a wonderful story. Thanks for telling about them all.

  3. Thanks for joining us today. What lovely books you have chosen.