Many thanks to Amélie of Amélie’s Bookshelf for recommending this terrific book. It provided a great opportunity to talk to my kindergarten students about authors and illustrators and whether illustrators always had to draw or paint the pictures to a book. In this case, Olivier Toppin has taken photographs of stuffed animals with real props in order to illustrate the book.
As I read this to my kindergarteners, they were held in great suspense, some said they were even scared as we read it. Trust me, this is a very gentle book with a kindergarten-sized villain and two really good guys, named Benjamin and Bumper.
When Benjamin’s mom goes off to do errands and doesn’t return, Benjamin and Bumper set out to find her. Luckily, they are very practical animals, packing lots of tools that they might need for their search and rescue mission, including: their scooter, ropes, ladders, a sewing kit, a fishing pool and some tools. When they discover that Mrs. Middlemouse has been captured by the terrible Sir Pouncelot, they’ll need all these various things in order to save her from becoming an ingredient in one of his dinner casseroles.
Will Benjamin and Bumper be able to save Benjamin’s mom? Will Sir Pouncelot learn a lesson? Tune in to this, the first of the Benjamin and Bumper Adventure series, to find out!
Quest is the incredible sequel to Aaron Becker’s 2014 Caldecott Honor Book, Journey. It, like Journey, is a wordless book with breathtaking illustrations.
I particularly like to use wordless books with my fourth graders. They are a restless bunch, usually wanting to talk amongst themselves rather than listen to a read aloud. With a book like Quest, I stand in front of my students and page through the book for them as they “read” it to themselves.
Even those students who were reluctant to pay attention quieted quickly. Quest held their attention so well, you could only hear the whispers as they “read” this book and said soft “aahhs” at the beautiful illustrations. At the end, my intractable group smiled and clapped. They loved it!
Quest begins at the end of Journey. (To be sure my students understood this, I showed them Journey first and then Quest.) The two children, a boy holding a purple crayon and a girl holding a red crayon, meet a king who gives them a written message, with multiple colors on it. The king is abducted by soldiers and taken away. The boy and girl use their crayons to try to save the king using the clues in the message he gave them. To see if they succeed, read this wonderful book and enjoy.
Chris Van Allsburg is a great picture book author that my students love. His books, usually drawn in black and white, which include: Widow’s Broom, The Garden of Abdul Gasazi and The Z was Zapped are always favorites. A Bad Day at Riverbend is not immediately identifiable as a Chris Van Allsburg, because it’s full of color. The way it introduces color makes my students, even the most obedient ones, cry out in dismay.
The town of Riverbend is in trouble. Riverbend looks like a coloring book. Everything is white, outlined in black. Now, something very strange and scary is happening in Riverbend. Lines of color, like scribbles, are covering things. Stagecoaches rarely come to town, but now a stagecoach has stopped in town… without a driver. It is covered in a slimy, colored substance. No one knows what it could be. The town’s residents are scared. What Luckily, Sheriff Ned Hardy is on the trail.
Read this wonderful book to find out what is threatening the town of Riverbend. My students loved the ending!
For those of us who see ourselves as inventors, scientists, or just creative types, we know the frustration of trying to recreate the vision in our heads. So it goes for a “regular girl and her best friend in the whole wide world.”
The girl sets out to build the “most magnificent thing”, “easy-peasy”. She gathers materials, hires an assistant (her dog) and starts to build. When she is finished, she is “shocked to discover that the thing isn’t magnificent.” Determined to get it right, she tinkers, adjusts, examines and builds many things. None of them fit the image in her head; and, needless to say, none of them are magnificent. Finally, she gets MAD. Completely losing her patience with the creative process, she starts smashing, jamming and pummeling her creation and in the process smashes her finger. “It is not her finest moment.” Her assistant, the essence of calm, holding his leash in his mouth, suggests a walk to clear her head. She has a hard time calming down, but after a while, “the mad gets pushed out of her head.” She starts to see some good elements in each of her earlier designs and sets out to try again. Finally, she finishes her creation. It isn’t exactly what she imagined, but turns out to be a most magnificent thing.
I think everyone that reads this book will totally relate to this girl’s emotions as she creates her magnificent thing. Ashley Spires is not only a gifted author, but also a very gifted illustrator. I loved absolutely loved this book, and so did my students.
This is a very peaceful book about the changing seasons and the coming of winter. Beautiful illustrations by Jill Kastner are a great accompaniment to Cynthia Rylant’s words.
“In November, the earth is growing quiet. It is making its bed, a winter bed for flowers and small creatures.” “In November, some birds move away and some birds stay.” “In November, the smell of food is different. It is an orange smell. A squash and a pumpkin smell.”
The story talks about the animals, birds, trees and finally ends with a family joining in a special meal, presumably Thanksgiving. This is a wonderful book to share with your younger students as Thanksgiving approaches.
Fletcher and the Falling Leaves is one of my favorite fall books. Fletcher is a little fox who discovers that his favorite tree is changing. He begins to worry about his tree when the tree’s leaves turn brown and then begin dropping off. Fletcher tries to fix his tree, trying to tie the leaves back onto the tree. He is distraught when a squirrel and porcupine make off with the fallen leaves. When the tree is finally bare, Fletcher takes the last leaf and makes a little bed for it in his room. The next day, winter has arrived, and Fletcher is amazed at the sight of his tree shimmering with icicles.
This story is very sweet, but what really makes it a keeper are the incredible illustrations of Tiphanie Beeke. Her water colors are beautiful, and my students always love the last “shimmery” page.
I love to read this to my K-1 students and talk to them about the life cycles of trees.
Here is a great, simple book about fall for young students. I like to read this with my pre-k and K students. The book begins with leaves in summer and then moves to how we know fall is here…leaves changing color and falling from trees. The simple illustrations show children catching falling leaves, collecting different leaves and comparing them, raking leaves and finally jumping in leaves! The children then drink warm cider and make pictures using the leaves they’ve collected.
Grouch, Grump and little Gloom ‘n’ Doom are monsters. They each think they are biggest, baddest monster. They spend their time arguing and trying to best each other. Then, they decide to settle their argument with tape, gunk, glue and a lightning bolt. The monster they create will be truly horrible and will scare everyone in the monster-fearing village just down the hill from their castle.
What a surprise when their terrible, giant monster doesn’t realize that he’s a monster. His first words are “Dank you!” He then proceeds to greet all the bats, snakes and other creatures in the room – much to Grouch, Grump and little Gloom ‘n’ Doom’s chagrin.
They are hopeful when their monster goes down the hill to town, sure that he’ll wreak havoc there. They are disappointed again as their monster goes inside the bakery and then leaves it with a “Dank you!” and a white paper bag. The monster goes to the beach and sits. The three little monsters sit next to him. When their monster hands them each a powdery jelly donut, they do something they don’t do often. They say, “Thank you.”
This is a funny, sweet book that my students loved. Enjoy.
I was drawn to this book because of the illustrations by Frederic Clement. They are beautiful. I was delighted that the story is beautiful as well.
Teiji is a famous painter whose paintings are sought after by people far and wide. One day, while he is painting, he sees a beautiful flock of birds fly by. The birds are the most beautiful that he has ever seen. So beautiful, in fact, that he cannot paint anymore. He goes off in search of the birds. He walks and walks until he finds an old man. The old man tells him that the birds are wild swans who come from Siberia and spend the winter on an island in the middle of the lake. The old man warns Teiji that it is dangerous to cross the lake in the winter, because of the ice. Teiji says that he can’t paint unless he sees that real beauty again. He feels such a strong need to see the birds that he sells everything he has, with the exception of his brushes and paints, and gives it to the old man for his boat. Teiji takes the boat across the lake. When the ice breaks the hull and the boat capsizes, Teiji is plunged into the icy water. Freezing, but determined to see the beautiful birds again, he drags himself to the island. There he sees the wild swans. He realizes that true beauty is impossible to capture in a painting and is grateful that he has had the chance to see the birds before he dies.
My students were very quiet while I read this book. I think they were taken in by the fact that Teiji would give away everything he had just to see the birds again. Although adults reading the book understand that Teiji has died at the end of the book, not all students do. We often spend time discussing the ending as so few books end this way. This is a thoughtful, beautiful book.
Interestingly, Claude Clement and Frederic Clement are not related. Please note that both their last names should appear with l’accent aigu over the first “e”.
Here’s a really fun read aloud. I read this to students from our transitional kindergarten, kindergarten and first grade. All of them LOVED this book.
Black Rabbit comes out of his burrow into the bright sunlight. He sees a big black rabbit behind him and is very scared. He runs from Black Rabbit, but Black Rabbit runs after him. Rabbit hides behind a tree but when he comes out from behind the tree there is big Black Rabbit. All my students yelled out, “It’s his shadow!”, but this book has a couple of great twists that kept them totally interested until the end.
My students all immediately said, “Read it again!” Don’t miss this great book. A Junior Library Guild selection.