Danielle Degelman

Top 10 Picture Books

Posted on: April 9, 2011

I took ELIB 216 this semester, and developed the skills I need to evaluate children’s literature and recognize high-quality selections. I also learned how to choose books that connect with outcomes and indicators for all subject areas in the Saskatchewan Curriculum. I recommend this class to ANY elementary, middle years, or secondary education student who plans on incorporating rich and varied literature to meet the needs of diverse students. Here is a list of the top ten picture books I read this semester:

  1. Say Something by Peggy Moss – The protagonist is a young African-American girl who witnesses many episodes of name-calling and teasing in and around her school.  She does not initiate the bullying, but plays the role of “bystander” and chooses not to get involved.  One day in the cafeteria, her role shifts to that of “victim” when she becomes the target of laughter and cruel jokes.  She is heart-broken and furious when her friends and classmates do not stand up for her. Say Something has proven itself to be a work of true value and relevance, as it teaches young children to “say no” to a bully, “say hello” to a victim, and “say yes” to making a difference.
  2. You Can’t Rush a Cat by Karleen BradfordYou Can’t Rush a Cat tells the story of a young girl and her grandfather who try to get a wild cat’s attention.  The young protagonist changes the food and water bowls, sings songs to the cat, rubs the cat’s ears, and eventually, provides a home for her.  Young readers are reminded on how to act responsibly and patiently around wild animals.  The illustrations provide the reader with warm colour tones and a flavor of real Saskatchewan scenery.
  3. For the Love of Autumn by Patricia Polacco – Danielle Parks loves her new kitten, Autumn.  She cannot wait to live with her companion by the beachside house and tell her students all about her.  However, Autumn goes missing during a violent storm.  Danielle feels guilty about her lack of responsibility for Autumn’s safety and plans a rescue search for her poor little kitten.  Penciled and watercoloured illustrations accompany the text to convey the changes in the protagonist’s emotions.
  4. Marigold’s Wings by Vlasta van Kampen – Marigold is excited to become a beautiful butterfly.  She remembers her mother’s story about growing gigantic wings and flying to Mexico at the end of summer.  This is a tradition carried on by all the butterflies in her community.  When Marigold undergoes remarkable transformation, she remembers her mother’s story and travels an incredible journey.  Young readers will realize that they have a huge responsibility in listening and obeying their own parents.  Their safety and well-being may depend on making the right decisions.
  5. Squawking Matilda by Lisa Horstman – Aunt Susan writes to Mae, a young farm girl, asking to provide a home for her chicken, Matilda.  Mae loves new projects and decides to make her the happiest chicken in the barn!  However, Mae is known for never finishing her projects.  For example, she never finished that special litter box for Cat, the fabulous hat for Dog, or the clubhouse for the sheep.  In the end, Mae learns that she needs to persevere with a task before she finishes it.  Lisa Horstman creates beautiful illustrations by designing puppets with stainless steel, wool felting, polymer clay, paint, and digital imagery.
  6. In Abby’s Hands by Wendy A. Lewis – Abby does not have much faith in her stubby hands.  However, she still takes on many responsibilities around the farm, such as caring for her grandfather, looking after her pregnant dog, and finding a suitable tire swing for the newborn puppies.  When her mom and grandfather leave for the hospital, Abby is left with a huge responsibility—Opal is in labour!  She stays calm and attends to the first newborn puppy.  When her mother comes home, all seven puppies are born.  The paints and photography allow the audience to can gain a true observation of Abby’s accomplishments.
  7. Waiting for the Sun by Alison Lohans – Mollie, a young farm girl, is waiting for her new baby brother to arrive into the world.  She is so excited to gain responsibility for her brother’s safety and well-being around the house and barns.  For example, she cannot wait to show him the tadpoles, chickens, dragonflies, and stick pictures that she drew in the dirt.  However, she realizes that Benjamin’s growth and maturity will take much time and patience.  The paintings portray characters, emotions, and nature in a realistic manner, and provide a glorious sunset to end the story.
  8. First Painter by Kathryn Lasky – Young Mishoo is a Dream Catcher of prehistoric time.  Like her mother, her duty is to catch a dream to bring the rain.  Mishoo’s younger sister, Erloo, is on the brink of death and will not survive the winter without food and water.  Since Mishoo is a caring and responsible older sister, she begins an adventure to “find” the rain.  As she collects thoughts from her mother’s spirit, she realizes that special cave drawings will cause large, grey clouds to form.  In this original book about the first cave paintings, readers learn about the importance of family and responsibilities of younger family members (such as siblings and cousins).  The illustrator uses a combination of paint, chalk, photography, and digital imagery to provide her own unique perspective of the story.
  9. One Well: The Story of Water on Earth by Rochelle Strauss – This book addresses the importance of the availability of “one well”—all the freshwater we need to survive as human beings.  Animals and plants need this “well” to survive and reproduce for generations to come.  How can we keep our water fresh and safe for citizens of the future?  By reading about pollution, a growing population, and saving water, children will learn to become responsible water users of the global “well”.  Rich and natural earthly paintings accommodate the text and draw children’s attention to vital information.
  10. My Little Car (Mi Carrito) by Gary Soto – One day, Teresa receives a carito (little car) from Abuelito Benito (Grandfather Benny).  She pedals around the city and shows it off to others at school.  With her father’s help, she learns how to take care of her new carito, until one day, she leaves it out in the rain.  It starts looking older everyday until she finally decides to fix it up. With Abuelito’s help, Teresa learns that she needs to take better responsibility and care for her belongings.  The book uses many Spanish terms, and young readers can look up English translations above the publishing history.

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"Let us think of education as the means of developing our greatest abilities, because in each of us there is a private hope and dream which, fulfilled, can be translated into benefit for everyone and greater strength of the nation." -- John F. Kennedy

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