Tuesday, August 10, 2010

August 10 for 10 Picture Book Event (Karen's picks)

Today is the big 10 for 10 Picture Book Event, and I've been thinking very hard about which picture books would make my top 10 list. This was as difficult task as I thought it would be!!! As a 5th grade teacher, there are many picture books I've accumulated for many reasons. So, when I went into my classroom and just sat near the bookshelves with picture books, I had to decide what the criteria would be for making the Top 10 list.

Here is what I came up with: I love every picture book in our classroom, but that alone can't get a book to a Top 10 list. I finally decided that to make the Top 10, the picture book had to be used multiple times in our classroom, using it as a mentor text because it is fabulous for multiple reasons.

With that criteria in mind, I got down to 25 books, and from 25, I finally managed to winnow it down to 10 (it wasn't easy at all!):

1) Saturdays and Teacakes by Lester Laminack -- if I had to point to the one book that I pull out the most often to use with my students, it would be this beautifully illustrated story. It is a simple story from a much more simple time. However, there is nothing simple about the language; the word choice in this story is beautiful.

2) 14 Cows for America by Carmen Agra Deedy and illustrated by Thomas Gonzalez - This is a book I discovered from the Cybils nonfiction picture book category. Simple, but beautiful text. True story. Gorgeous pictures. A book that had to make the Top 10.

3) Fly Away Home by Eve Bunting and illustrated by Ronald Himler - I will frequently say that I love a book for its beautiful language and this book is no exception. The comparison of the main character's life to the bird caught in the airport terminal makes this one reason I read this book each year. The other reason I love this book so much is because of the clear, but sensitive way it deals with the very real issue of homelessness.

4) Night Tree by Eve Bunting and illustrated by Ted Rand - This book is 19 years old, and I love the story each time I read it. Eve Bunting is absolutely one of my favorite picture book authors.

5) When I Was Young in the Mountain by Cynthia Rylant and illustrated by Diane Goode -- Yes, it won a Caldecott Honor back in its day, but that's not why it made my list. When I Was Young in the Mountains tells a story that has a lyrical refrain... "When I was young in the mountain..." I never get tired of that phrase. This story evokes memories for all students; this is a story to which they can relate.

6) The Other Side by Jacqueline Woodson and illustrated by E. B. Lewis -- what I can I say about this book? It tells an amazing story in a poetic way. The not-so-subtle symbol of the fence and each side allows for rich conversation. I love this book!!

7) Nothing Ever Happens on 90th Street by Roni Schotter and illustrated by Kyrsten Brooker - this is a perfect book to share with my students in writing workshop at the beginning of the year. It does a great job of pointing how that in fact there is always something happening everywhere. A colleagure actually introduced this book to me and I am so grateful. After reading this aloud together, we spend a lot of time "noticing" all the things that go on around us at our school. Great writer's notebook activity!!

8) Snowflake Bentley by Jacqueline Briggs Martin and illustrated by Mary Azarian -- This might have been the very first nonfiction story I fell in love with as a teacher. The topic is fascinating, the word choice is excellent, and the set-up of the book with more facts on the outside border make this a true gem! This is a nonfiction picture book that comes out year after year.

9) Mermaid Queen by Shana Corey and illustrated by Edwin Fotheringham -- This is another beautifully illustrated book that I discovered while serving on the Cybils nonfiction picture book panel this past year. I fell in the love with the wonderful colors and water designs built into the illustrations. The language and word choice make for great mentor text for my 5th grade writers. In addition, this is a great example of literary nonfiction for writers.

10) My Great-Aunt Arizona by Gloria Houston and illustrated by Susan Condie Lamb -- A great story about a smart, interesting female over the span of her lifetime. I love this character, and I love the rich discussions my students have when talking about character traits as they apply to the narrator's Great-aunt Arizona. I've had this book for years, and I never tire of it.

As difficult as choosing just 10 books was, it was fun for me to see how much I still love and use some classics by Gloria Houston, Eve Bunting, and Cynthia Rylant. I was also pleased to see that some gorgeously done nonfiction made my list as well.

I'm sure as I read others' lists today, I'll smack myself on the side of the head and wonder how I could have forgotten the books they mention. :) But as I reread my list, I know that all of these books are wonderful and I will use them many times this year. This is one of those activities that there really are no wrong answers -- my favorite kind!!

Thanks to Cathy and Mandy for hosting this fun, thought-provoking, difficult, enlightening event!!


  1. Excellent post! Snowflake Bentley's on my list, too. Thanks for sharing!

  2. Snowflake Bentley! One of my favorites. Great list.

  3. What a great list. I'm so inspired by this! I also love Lester Laminack's word choice and I heard him speak at a RR conf. and thought he was fantastic. I can't wait to try out some of the books I've never read on your list!

  4. Love, love, love that you included non-fiction selections in your list! Thanks for sharing Karen!

  5. Just love Snowflake Bentley, snow is wonderful now that I don't live in Buffalo.

  6. Hi Karen--I don't know 14 Cows for America--sounds like a great one. Miss you and love your list!

  7. Thank you for sharing your list! I haven't read most of the books on it. I have a lot of picture book reading to do.

  8. Hi Esme, Susan, Jackie, Mary, Mandy, and Mrs. Johnson :) !! Thanks so much for stopping by and checking out our 10 for 10. What a great event Cathy and Mandy sponsored. Loved looking at everyone's lists!!

    Anne Marie -- miss you too! Are you going to be in the near vicinity anytime this year? Did we already talk about NCTE? If you're going, we'll have to find some time to get together and catch up on things. Not like you had anything happening this summer. :)

  9. Great list! Reading this one after Susan T.'s (Chicken Spaghetti), you really get a sense of the books that are best for Youngers vs Olders, and then there's Katie's list that is so perfect for boys. Bottom line: they're all great lists!

  10. I only know a few of the books on your excellent list so I will have to go to the library to discover the rest. Thanks for sharing your excellent list!

  11. Can you believe that I haven't had a chance to read everyone's list until today? It's finally quiet around here and I have some time. :) Love your list!!! Mermaid Queen is a new one that I have to check out. Thanks for sharing.

  12. ML - I agree about how everyone's list did reflect their needs for their students.

    Pragmatic Mom - so glad you stopped by. Hope you enjoy your library visits to pick up all the wonderful books from everyone's lists!

    Julie - You know what they say, better late than never. So glad you finally got to read the lists. The Mermaid Queen is quite colorful and puts a nice spin on a typical biography.

  13. I really enjoyed reading this post because I love picture books and have been using them for years in my classroom. Most of my students who are in special education are non readers, so these books make it simple for them the look at and enjoy, while I read the words. So many of these books are nonfiction which is important for all children to see as well as fiction books. The art work in these picture books can also be spectacular and can be so beautiful for the students and adults to see. Just as with any book your goal is that after you read these books to your child or students, you will hope that this will in turn create a love of reading in them. These books can also be there ones that you keep forever in your personal libraries. Many of these picture books hold up over time and always have the same message even many years later. I will have to stop by the library to pick up some of these books and try them out for myself. Thanks again for just a smart and concise list.