Wednesday, August 10, 2011

10 For 10 Event - 2011 version (karen)

Last year, when I participated in this fun event, I focused on picture books I used in multiple ways as mentor texts in my classroom. The picture books I chose this year are all nonfiction or informational. Their strengths lie in the fact they are full of wonderful information, they can easily be used to work on comprehension strategies, and they are all wonderful mentor texts for writing. Like the books I shared last year, these books will be ones our class will come back to time and time again.

So, with no further ado, here is my 2011 10 For 10:

1) Dark Emperor and Other Poems of the Night by Joyce Sidman and illustrated by Rick Allen. This book deserved every award it received this past year. It is a gorgeous book about creatures and events of the night. The pictures are very dark, appropriately so, given the setting of night. What I love about this book the most is how on one side of the 2-page spread is a poem about the creature, full of amazing, beautiful language. On the other side, is a clear concise nonfiction text that shares further information about the animal. When doing research last year, several of my students modeled their writing presentation like this book.

2) Can We Save the Tiger? by Martin Jenkins and illustrated by Vicky White. The layout of this book is gorgeous; I recently handed this book out to participants in a workshop, and you could hear gasps all over the room as they looked at the illustrations. Once you get past how beautiful the book is, the reader can then focus on the text which is equally as powerful. This picture book will again serve as a nonfiction writing mentor. In addition, when I got this book last year, the focus on saving the environment and specific animals were great lessons for students. It allowed us to talk about cause/effect and problem/solution over and over and over. What a great way to look at real problems in our world with a beautiful book.

3) Hot Diggity Dog: The History of the Hot Dog by Adrienne Sylver and illustrated by Elwood H. Smith. This is a very visually appealing nonfiction text, starting with the front cover where a hot dog is designed as a space ship. Fun for the reader! So many times in some of the "traditional" nonfiction texts for children, there are subheadings, fun facts, and informational text, but this book has taken those components and made them both easier, and more fun, to read. Each subheading starts on a new 2-page spread, and there is great information for the reader to find on each page. There are vocabulary words on the side, fun facts, easy narrative text to read about the subtopic, and great illustrations. Last year, this was a widely popular nonfiction writing mentor text as well as a great text for me to use time and time again with nonfiction comprehension strategies and vocabulary conversations.

4) Energy Island: How One Community Harnessed the Wind and Changed Their World by Allan Drummond. Love, love, love this book! It takes an important topic like renewable and non-renewable energies and makes it incredibly friendly for students to understand. The narrative text tells the story of an island in Denmark, Samso. This island has strong winds that blow across it, and we find out how those winds were harnessed in a way that brought energy to Samso. The best part of this story however is the message that one person can make a difference. The actions of one farmer and one scientist ended up changing the thinking of the entire island population. Better yet, they started small and built up to bigger ways to harness the wind for energy.

5) Faith by Maya Ajmera Magda Nakassis, and Cynthia Pon. I read this book last year, but I had forgotten about it until I reread it a workshop this summer. It is a beautiful portrayal of what faith looks like in many different religions and cultures, using expressive photographs of children engaging in various aspects of their faith. As we become a more global society, and as our classrooms reflect that change, it is important to honor those cultures, traditions, and faiths. Equally important as honoring, however, is the need to expose children who only look at the world with one lens to a variety of different lenses. It doesn't take away from their own faith and beliefs, but allows them to make connections to others as well.

6) Sit-In: How Four Friends Stood Up by Sitting Down by Andrea Davis Pinkney and illustrated by Brian Pinkney. This is the story of the four college students who went into a Woolworth's hoping to get a cup of coffee and a doughnut. The text is written in verse with the phrase (or something similar to it) repeating over and over: They waited and wanted " a doughnut and coffee, with cream on the side." This patient waiting, respectful at all times, regardless of the hate directed to them, or things being thrown on them, is such a great conversational opening for students about similar topics. It shares with them how awful things were back in the 1960s, and allows us to talk about whether or not things have changed. This is important talk to have with children in this day and age. Andrea Davis Pinkney's words are brilliant and Brian Pinkney's illustrations are superb. This is a book that is shared over and over for so many reasons.

7) America's White Table by Margot Theis Raven and illustrated by Mike Benny. A colleague introduced me to this book about 5 years ago, and I've used it every November 11 (Veteran's Day) since then. This story is informational, while having a fictional narrative (so I'm stretching me category a little here). However, this book beautifully tells a tradition of setting a small table complete with white tablecloth, black napkin, turned-over glass, white candle, red rose in a vase tied with red ribbon, lemon slice, grains of salt on a plate, and an empty chair. The importance of each of these items is explained in greater detail. Throughout the book, the readers find the words of "America the Beautiful". It is a touching story with a backdrop of history.

8) How the Sphinx Got to the Museum by Jessie Hartland. This was one of the Cybils nonfiction picture book nominees this past year, and I fell in love with it. The author takes the reader from the time 1470 B.C. when the Sphinx was first designed to recent times when the Sphinx was brought to the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City. So much to appreciate about the book. First, this is an add-on story where each person starting with the Pharaoh who ordered the Sphinx to be built and the sculptor who sculpted it. Everytime someone new deals with the Sphinx it is added in a different font and color and then everything that happened previously is repeated also. Second, the vocabulary in this book is amazing. Through each initial add-on, the reader learns something new about that person or person's occupation. Finally, it's great that students are exposed to a "how did that happen?" in the real world. Great picture book!

9) The Extraordinary Mark Twain (According to Suzy) by Barbara Kerley and illustrated by Edwin Fotheringham. Though students may not be all that familiar with Mark Twain, having the story told through his daughter's (Suzy) words helps bring it to a kid-friendly level. As a lover of words, I couldn't help but be delighted that actual phrases from Mark Twain are included. Because his words sound different from the way students talk, it makes for great conversation to discuss what exactly his phrases mean. In addition, a genius move on the part of the publisher/author/illustrator is that actual journal entries from Suzy are sewn into the binding of the book. It is so fun to turn the page and find a "journal" with the regular text. This is an appealing biography for students.

10) I wanted to include 2 biographies, and it was sooooo hard to commit to just 2, but if I'm not going to talk about Dave the Potter: Artist, Poet, and Slave by Laban Carrick Hill, AND if I'm not going to talk about Henry Aaron's Dream by Matt Tavares (I know, I know! I'm so cheating right now!), I'll have to share my final pick which is Mermaid Queen by Shana Corey and illustrated by Edwin Fotheringham (same illustrator as Mark Twain book). I fell in love with this book 2 years ago. The colors in the book are amazing, and Fotheringham does an amazing job having "waves of water" on every page; it totally ties the story together visually. This is another great mentor text if a student was writing a biography. The author plays with font and words, and the language is much fun to discuss. The fact that this is about a strong woman who didn't fear being different is just icing on the cake!

So, there you have it. My 10 (or really 12) for 10. Great nonfiction and informational picture books. Each has an important place in our class learning, thinking, writing, reading, and discussions.

Thanks so much to Mandy and Cathy for hosting this 2nd annual event. Now that I've finished my post, can't wait to read what others have on their lists!!!


  1. Thanks for joining us today. What a great focus for your list and I wish I taught older students to spend time with these books in my classroom.

  2. You've included so many interesting titles. America's white table sounds interesting.
    Thanks for all the great recommendations.
    Apples with Many Seeds