Recently, I read an article about what books do for the human soul. The author explained how good literature makes us nicer because it allows us to consider
someone else’s point of view. Good literature also allows us to consider our actions on others and provides us with examples of being kind and generous.
Good picture books also enhance our lives. With their wide array of topics and vivid artistry, these books play a key role in fostering a child’s imagination, creativity, and interest in reading. Because they are often read aloud, they provide opportunities for togetherness and connection. Since November is Picture Book Month, now is the perfect time to share your favorite picture books with children. Why not head to the library to find new favorites too. To help you get started, The New York Public Library compiled this list of 100 picture books everyone should know. Happy reading!
Comic book fans at the National Book Festival, 2016
My friends’ creative, college-aged sons are comic connoisseurs. My visits with them always include engaging stories of diverse superheroes and the
writers/artists that create them.
Two years ago, they were thrilled to meet MacArthur “genius grant fellow” and comic/graphic novelist Gene Luen Yang at the National Book Festival. His novel, American Born Chinese was the first graphic novel to be nominated for a National Book Award and the first to win the American Library Association’s Printz Award. Yang believes “both graphic novels and comics can be used effectively as educational tools in the classroom.”
Comic books can be used as educational tools to support literacy and language skills and to motivate reluctant readers. Organizations such as Reading With Pictures “get comics into schools and schools into comics” by providing educational resources for teachers and parents.
The Library of Congress believes comics support literacy by:
Above all, comics remind us how we are all ordinary superheroes sharing our gifts and talents with the world. As Batman once said, “You only have your thoughts and dreams ahead of you. You are someone. You mean something.” BAM!
A small act of kindness can brighten someone’s day. Simple gestures such as a smile or lending a helping hand can be transformative. There is also evidence
that giving or receiving kindness is healthy for us. Treating others with kindness yields positive feelings, which can lift our moods and increase resilience and resourcefulness. These
benefits also apply to children.
One book that exemplifies these positive feelings is the beautiful picture book, Sidewalk Flowers. In this wordless book, a young girl is a giver of kindness for its own reward. While walking in the city with her distracted father, she collects sidewalk wildflowers. “Each flower becomes a gift, and whether the gift is noticed or ignored, both giver and recipient are transformed by their encounter.” The girl’s sense of wonder reminds us how beauty is all around as long as we take time to look for it. The illustrations encourage storytelling and offer young readers the opportunity to share how their acts of kindness can make the world a better place.
Conceived by poet JonArno Lawson and illustrated by Sydney Smith, Sidewalk Flowers “is an ode to the importance of small things, small people and small gestures.”
As a child, I never needed
incentives to read. Reading made me happy and also helped me relax. I reread favorites until they were well worn. Recently, I parted with some childhood
books that I had saved. Many were presents from family and friends, so the emotional task took a long time to complete. When they were all packed for the last time, I consoled myself
by visiting the library.
If you’re looking for ways to encourage children to read, I suggest that you read too. Visit the library, talk about books, ask questions, and let them see you reading for pleasure. To find recommended books, there are many excellent resources. Peruse the Association for Library Service to Children (ALSC) Notable Book Lists which feature the best children’s books published for all age levels (birth through age 14). Also, individual states have reading programs for their students. In Maryland, it’s the Black-Eyed Susan Award. Each year, a committee of librarians selects books, and children vote for their favorites. Last year 70,000 students participated and selected the following winners.
Picture Book – Dog vs. Cat by Chris Gall
Grades 4-6 – The Fourteenth Goldfish by Jennifer Holm
Graphic Novels Grades 4-6 – El Deafo by CeCe Bell
Grades 6-9 –The Crossover by Kwame Alexander
High School – The Naturals by Jennifer Lynn Barnes
My friend Jerry reminds me of the book character Amos McGee. Like Amos, he is friendly, patient, and generous with his time. Even though he has a lot to do, he always makes time to
Erin Stead won the 2011 Caldecott Medal for A Sick Day for Amos McGee, which was written by her husband Philip Stead. The book, about a zookeeper who always has time for his animal friends, is lovely and charming – much like the illustrator. She won the medal at quite a young age – late twenties. In fact it was the first book she ever illustrated – amazing! She had stopped drawing for three years due to “a severe and self-inflicted loss of confidence.” At the end of the third year, she realized that by not drawing, a part of her was missing. If you have any tendencies toward introversion or shyness, read her acceptance speech. It reminded me of the book, Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking.
Philip says he wrote the story for Erin. In her Caldecott acceptance speech, she describes how the characters
“. . . immediately felt like friends I had known for a long time. But each character also felt like extensions of me.”
Amos is a quiet man, but he makes a big impact on others. We all need friends like Amos (and my friend Jerry). This heartwarming book reminds us to take time for our friendships because they are well worth it.
Campoy, F. Isabel. Howell, Theresa. (Illustrated by Rafael Lopez). Maybe Something Beautiful: How Art Transformed a Neighborhood. New York: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2016.
A girl who lives to doodle, draw, color, and paint lives in a gray city. An artist sees one of her artworks, and they begin to spread color and joy throughout the streets. (Rafael
Lopez is both the illustrator of the book and the inspiration for the artist.)
DiCamillo, Kate. Raymie Nightingale. Somerville, MA: Candlewick Press,
Three girls take baton-twirling lessons to compete in the Little Miss Central Florida Tire competition. Two of the girls need to win the contest. One girl wants to sabotage it.
Grace, Gordon. Cabinet of Curiosities: Collecting and Understanding the Wonders of the Natural World.
New York: Workman Publishing, 2015.
Scientists collect, observe, describe, and identify things in the physical world such as plants, animals and minerals. Read about fascinating collections, and learn how to preserve and organize your own cabinet of curious collections.
Henkes, Kevin. Waiting. New York: Greenwillow Books, 2015.
Five toy friends are waiting. Each toy waits for something different. While passing time, they look out the window and observe wonderful things that keep them happy.
Henkes, Kevin. When Spring Comes. New York: Greenwillow Books, 2016.
If you wait, spring will come. It comes with sun and lots of rain. You will know when spring is here to stay because you will feel it, smell it, and hear it.
Micklethwait, Lucy. I Spy Shapes in Art. New York: Greenwillow Books, 2004.
Look for shapes in these famous paintings. Look for colors, lines, and textures too. Choose your favorite artwork, and make up a story about it.
Pennypacker Sara. (Illustrated by Jon Klassen). Pax. New York: HarperCollins, 2016.
Pax, a fox, is rescued by “his boy” twelve-year-old Peter. Pax and Peter become inseparable. When forced to break their powerful bond, both of them discover strengths and the true meaning of family.
Stead, Philip. Ideas Are All Around. New York: Roaring Book Press, 2016.
A writer runs out of ideas for stories. His dog doesn’t like him to write stories, so they go for a walk. They see a painted turtle, ducks, a train, their friend Barbara, and lots more.
Winter, Jonah. How Jelly Roll Morton Invented Jazz. New York: Roaring Brook Press. 2015.
Jazz musician, Jelly Roll Morton, created his own recipe for music by blending different sounds on the piano. He knew “the only way to rise up and fly away was one piano note at a time.”
If you want to make our world a better place, read Originals: How Non-Conformists Move the World by Adam Grant. Through intriguing studies and personal stories,
Grant shares practical actions to generate ideas for change. Individuals, leaders, parents, and teachers will also learn techniques to encourage and implement change.
The book is beneficial to anyone who wants to learn:
Specific recommendations for teachers and parents to help children learn about making a creative and/or moral stand include:
“Ask children what their role models would do. Children feel free to take initiative when they look at problems through the eyes of originals. Ask children what they would like to improve in their family or school. Then have them identify a real person or fictional character they admire for being unusually creative and inventive. What would that person do in this situation?"
“Link good behaviors to moral character. Many parents and teachers praise helpful actions, but children are more generous when they’re commended for being helpful people – it becomes part of their identity. If you see a child do something good, try saying, ‘You’re a good person because you____.’ Children are also more ethical when they’re asked to be moral people – they want to earn the identity. If you want a child to share a toy, instead of asking, ‘Will you share?’ ask, ‘Will you be a sharer?’
Brun-Cosme, Nadine. Big Wolf & Little Wolf, Such a Beautiful Orange!
New York: Enchanted Lion Books, 2011.
Big Wolf uses courage and “howls as no wolf has howled before” in his search to find Little Wolf. This is the third and last book in the Big Wolf series.
Graf, Lisa. Lost in the Sun. New York:
Philomel Books, 2015.
Twelve-year-old Trent’s involvement in a tragic accident leaves him lonely and guilt-ridden. Hoping for a fresh start in middle-school, he becomes overwhelmed by debilitating thoughts. Not until he meets Fallon Little, a girl with a mysterious scar across her face, does he begin to heal.
Upper Elementary/Middle School
Mavor, Salley. Pocketful of Posies: A Treasury of Nursery Rhymes. New
York: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2010.
Beautifully illustrated with fabric, stitched embroidery, buttons, dyed wool and other unique objects. I recently shared this book with nursing home residents who admired the artist’s creative expression. They also enjoyed reciting their favorite nursery rhymes (from memory).
Ages 2 and up
Seuss, Dr. Les Oeufs Verts au Jambon. Berkeley, CA: Ulysses Press, 2009.
French Edition of Green Eggs and Ham. Parfait for all ages learning to read French.
Stead, Philip. Lenny & Lucy. New York: Roaring Brook Press, 2015.
Exquisite illustrations enhance a story about moving to a new house and the courage and creativity needed to build new friends.
As a result of their passion for reading, artist Jane Mount and writer Thessaly La Force asked 100+ creative people to assemble their ideal “bookshelves.” This select group represented a variety of disciplines, and many of them cited reading as a gateway to their creative pursuits. My Ideal Bookshelf will inspire you, help you find new books to read, and make you think about your own ideal bookshelf. Included is a template that allows you to create your own bookshelf.
Bookshelf of Nancy Pearl, librarian
Bookshelf of Candy Chang, artist + urban planner
Ask your children to assemble their bookshelves (and illustrate the book spines too). The following prompts (taken from the book’s cover illustration) will get them thinking:
The Best Book I Ever Read
The Book I Read Again and Again
The Book That Makes Me Cry Every Time
The Book I Love the Most
A Book That Changed My Life
The Book That Makes Me Who I Am
My Favorite Book
They could also assemble bookshelves for historical figures or fictional characters. For example, what book might Harry Potter love most?
Power and Pathos, the exhibit of bronze sculptures at the National Gallery of Art in Washington D.C., is remarkable. Fifty bronze sculptures, dating from the 4th century BC to the 1st century AD, capture the “dynamic realism, expression, and detail that characterize the new artistic goals of the era.” Innovations from a distant time still seem relevant today and offer inspiration for prolonged viewing and future exploration. Only a small fraction of ancient bronzes survives because most were melted down over the centuries. Many of the exhibit’s lifelike masterpieces were discovered via the sea, having washed ashore or pulled up in fishing nets.
Athena ("Minerva of Arezzo"), 300 - 270 BC; bronze and copper.
Children eager to learn more about archaeology and ancient artwork can visit Historium: Welcome to the Museum by Jo Nelson. The book conveys how human beings are “astonishingly creative” by showcasing a diverse selection of civilizations and objects. The detailed illustrations and descriptions of artifacts from six "galleries" (Africa, America, Asia, Europe, The Middle East, and Oceania) provide an excellent overview of ancient cultures.
"Recognized worldwide for the high quality they represent, ALA awards guide parents, educators, librarians and others in selecting the best materials for youth. Selected by judging committees of librarians and other children’s experts, the awards encourage original and creative work." American Library Association