Katie Kazoo is a cute series for 2nd and 3rd grade that is a real favorite with the girls at my school. I bought eight of the series, and they’ve asked me to buy the rest! (There are 35.) In the first Katie Kazoo book, Katie Kazoo Switcheroo, Katie and the rest of her third grade class a have to deal with a class bully, who doesn’t seem to be able to be anything but mean, especially to Katie. Imagine Katie’s surprise, when after wishing she could be anyone else as a shooting star goes by… she turns into a hamster!? Can she turn back into a girl? Can she help George figure out how to be nice? Read this fun series and see!
I’m a big fan of Leo Lionni’s books. They are timeless. This is a wonderful pre-k book that never fails with my preschool and kindergarten students. In this book, Leo Leonni blends colors to create a story of friendship and family. His ripped paper art is creative and appealing to young audiences.
Little blue has lots of friends, but little yellow is his best friend. One day, little blue goes out looking for little yellow. When they finally find each other, they hug and become one green dot. They go on all sorts of adventures together but when they go home to their families, their families don’t recognize them. It isn’t until they both cry that their tears turn them back into blue and yellow. The families recognize their children and everyone hugs, going from blue and yellow to green.
Reminiscent of the Lion and the Mouse, this is the tale of a boy who helps others and is then helped by himself. My students just loved this book and clapped as I finished it. The monster is creepy and comical and the boy’s good deeds are laudable.
Old Foot Eater is an awful monster who lives in a tree and catches young children by coiling a very sticky rope at the bottom of a tree. Old Foot Eater particularly likes eating the feet of small children. A lost boy, who has wandered so long that he’s forgotten his own name, sees a rattlesnake sunning himself on a rock. Rather than trying to strike at the snake and kill it, the boy acknowledges the snake’s place in the world and lets it be. As the boy continues wandering, he runs into a scorpion. He also lets the scorpion live. Suddenly, the boy walks right into the Old Foot Eater’s trap and is hauled up into the tree by the monster. Caught and placed into a cooking pot from which he can’t escape, the boy is saved by the rattlesnake who hangs down from the edge and helps the boy escape. The monster sees the boy escape and chases him. The scorpion gives him a medicine bag that allows the boy to spread prickly cactus on the ground around the monster, leading to the Monster’s own demise.
One day, a small lost duckling walks up to Duck, thinking Duck is his mother. Duck takes the duckling under her wing and raises her. They laugh, plan and dream together. Duckling is growing up, and soon, Duck realizes that she will have to teach Duckling to fly. After trying everything she knows how to do, Duck finally straps Duckling to her back with her scarf. When they see ducks flying by, they jump off a hill, and Duckling flaps his wings. Duck realizes that she is weighing Duckling down. She loosens her scarf and falls to the ground, watching Duckling fly away with the other ducks.
The winter passes sadly for Duck. When spring comes, she no longer looks at the ducks flying, because flying took Duckling away from her. Then, she spots Duckling out of the corner of her eye. Duckling has returned. They laugh and play until Duckling takes duck onto his back and helps her to fly.
This is honestly such a sweet and touching book. Randy Cecil’s drawings are fantastic and my young audiences love it.
Ezra Jack Keats (1916-1983) wrote so many wonderful books for children. I think most notable for me, as a children’s librarian in a school that serves mostly children of color, is that Ezra Jack Keats, although white, made his characters all African American. It is really refreshing to reach to my shelves and show my students books with children that look like them. Of course, it’s not only that fact that makes me create multiple story times using Ezra Jack Keats’ stories. His books deal with universal problems that all children growing up face. I think he is so popular in my library today, because can relate to Peter and the situations he finds himself in.
They want to whistle like Peter in a Whistle for Willie, or be friends with a girl without getting teased, like Peter in A Letter to Amy, or keep a snowball overnight like Peter in The Snowy Day or figure out how to deal with bullies, like in the book Goggles.
Ezra Jack Keats wrote the following books: my favorite, The Snowy Day, as well as A Whistle for Willie, A Letter to Amy, Goggles, Pet Show, Peter’s Chair, Apt. 3, and John Henry and others. Snowy Day won the Caldecott Medal in 1963.
If you haven’t read Ezra Jack Keats’ books for children, I think you’ll really enjoy reading them and introducing a new group of young students to his beautiful illustrations and writing.
Eve Bunting’s books tend toward social justice and environmental messages. I find that her books treat subjects sensitively and give kids a real window into the subject at hand. Secret Place is focused on the issue of increasing urbanization and the loss of habitat for water birds and was a big hit with my students. After reading this book, we fell into a thoughtful discussion about the author’s message and how it connects to our city, Oakland, California.
Ted Rand’s beautiful water color illustrations take us through a city scape with traffic on freeways and a river running through a concrete bed. Written in first person, a young boy talks of a secret place he and his neighbors have found in the concrete river. It’s a place where all kinds of water birds like white egrets, teals, ducks, buffleheads and coots live. This secret place, where the birds live, has its own noises. Later, at night, a coyote and possum come to drink at the river side.
The child realizes that all the city was once wilderness and that it’s important to protect the last places where wildlife live in the city. He knows that he needs to keep this place secret and special.
It was wonderful to talk to my students, many of whom do not regularly leave the city, about all the wildlife that lives here in Oakland. I was able to talk to them about Oakland’s Lake Merritt, which became the nation’s first official wildlife refuge in 1870. We talked not only about the many birds that roost in the refuge at Lake Merritt, but also the other wildlife in Oakland, including racoons, skunks, possums and on the outskirts of town, coyotes. A great read for Earth Day.
The Grim Reaper appears at a shoemaker’s door one night asking for the shoemaker’s soul. As any good shoemaker would do, the shoemaker looked at Death’s feet and noticed that Death was barefoot. Cleverly, the shoemaker suggests a pair of sandals to cover Death’s feet. Snatching Death’s scroll of names out of his hand, the shoemakers sketches a pattern and says he’ll see Death in four weeks. This so confuses Death, that he goes along with the plan. He appears year after year, each time getting more and more shoes for his wardrobe until Death finally announces that he has come for the shoemaker’s soul and won’t be denied. The shoemaker cleverly points out that he has given Death sole after sole.
This book creates a wonderful bridge between modern day sea turtles and their much larger prehistoric ancestors, archelon. Like sea turtles today, Archelon apparently returned to the same beaches where they were born just as sea turtles do today.
The rhymes in this book are soothing and the illustrations are really beautiful. Dinosaur fans will particularly delight in the illustrations. My students are always quiet and attentive while I read this book. I love it so much that I read it to my classes each year. I particularly like reading this book to first and second graders.
This is another wonderful book for African-American History month. Langston’s Train Ride begins with Langston Hughes walking down a sidewalk celebrating the publishing of his first book of poems. He then flashes back to the train ride he took to Mexico to see his father when he was 18 years old. As the train travels, he reminisces about his childhood. When the train crosses the Mississippi River, he thinks of what it means to his people, the slaves who were sent “down the river” and Abe Lincoln’s trip on the river “where he saw a slave auction and learned to hate slavery.” His view of the Mississippi brings words to his head. He thinks of other ancient rivers in Africa and begins to write down the words to his first poem: “The Negro Speaks of Rivers.”
This is a powerful book made more so by its incredible illustrations by Leonard Jenkins. It is hard not to be moved by this book and the words of Langston Hughes’ first poem.
I love to read books about artists to my students. This book is a particularly wonderful book about African-American artist, Jacob Lawrence. I used this book for grades 1 through 6 during African-American History month. It was wonderful to show my students Lawrence’s beautiful art depicting the Underground Railroad, Harriet Tubman, The Great Migration, and Toussaint L’Overture’s battle to liberate Haiti.
This book is also a jumping off point to talk about important points in history. Like many African-American artists, Lawrence lived in Harlem. His Theater series illustrates the shows in Harlem’s famous entertainment halls, like the Cotton Club, and the Apollo. Jacob Lawrence was also a part of the Easel Project, a government art program stated in the 1930s to help artists. Jacob Lawrence was paid to paint and was paid more than many jobs during the Great Depression.
Jacob Lawrence painted on paper and cardboard using tempura paint. Remarkably, Jacob Lawrence would create series of paintings about a subject, sometimes as many as 40 paintings, by painting one color at a time. He would put up all the sheets of paper for the series on his wall and then would move among the panels until he had painted all the colors.
This book is really a non-fiction book, but the color panels of his paintings are so dramatic and beautiful in this book that it makes a wonderful book to use as you would a picture book with groups of students.
This book is won the Carter G. Woodson Book Award granted by the National Council for the Social Studies, an award given to books that “encourage the writing, publishing, and dissemination of outstanding social science books for young readers that treat topics related to ethnic minorities and relations sensitively and accurately.”