It’s amazing how the incredibly simplistic text and illustrations of a picture book can truly warm your heart.
February in my elementary school library translates into a run on books about Arctic animals and Valentine’s Day. (Both teachers and children are inspired by the snow and ice out their windows, I suppose.) As the school librarian, I strive to make sure that I meet every anticipated need and, after experiencing this trend year after year, it became obvious that my selection of penguin books was woefully inadequate.
In my efforts to update, I stumbled upon a heartwarming story of friendship that perfectly combines the sentiments of Valentine’s Day with an Arctic animal, the title character, Penguin.
Not only does this book present the difference between an arctic climate and other climates in a way that completely accessible to my preschoolers, but it also presents an opportunity to discuss friendship, a timely topic for the upcoming Valentine’s Day holiday.
In deceptively simplistic text and illustrations, Salina Yoon tells the tale of how Penguin finds and befriends, Pinecone, even demonstrating his love by knitting him a scarf to keep him warm. Their “close-knit” friendship soon faces the ultimate challenge, separation, when Penguin realizes he has to return Pinecone to his home in the forest. Though he misses his friend very much, Penguin realizes that love sometimes means letting go. This loving choice is rewarded by Pinecone’s growth into a mature tree.
“When you give love, it grows.”
The beautiful and lyrical message of being far apart yet always staying in each other’s hearts is irresistibly sweet and a great way to introduce making and sending Valentine’s Day cards for friends and family that may be far away.
My superhero-obsessed preschooler received a copy of Max the Brave as a Christmas gift this year and our family immediately fell in love with the fearless kitten and his creator, Ed Vere.
After Christmas break ended all too soon, I immediately set about trying to borrow a copy of each of this British author/illustrator’s picture books. The first of Ed Vere’s masterpieces to arrive at my school library was Banana!
Upon first reading, this book appeared far too simplistic for my four-year-old twin sons. Described best as “nearly wordless,” this book relies heavily on the facial expressions of its primate characters and the two words contained within its pages to tell the story of two monkeys learning how to share.
Cute story, great lesson, but it should be in board book format, right?
In short, perhaps yes, perhaps no…
Yes, this would make a fantastic board book. It meets all the criteria for a book for young toddlers: there are few words per page; the characters are familiar animals; the illustrations are brightly-colored and engaging illustrations; the author tells a simple story.
I must admit, however, that I also underestimated the power of Banana! by Ed Vere as a picture book.
Banana! is a fantastic book for preschoolers for several reasons:
Anything that causes my sons to belly-laugh is worth reading aloud over and over again in our house.
It’s perfect for non-readers to “read”.
Because this book has so few words, it is easy for preschool-aged children to memorize and “read” it aloud to themselves.
It’s a great book to teach preschoolers about punctuation.
Even though Banana! only contains the words “banana” and “please,” Ed Vere uses those words very economically. Each is used, in conjunction with varying punctuation marks and facial expressions, to demonstrate a variety of emotions: intense desire, confusion, disbelief, frustration, joy.
Leading preschoolers through a careful examination of those punctuation marks becomes a natural, rather than forced, conversation. After helping my children recognize that the word that appeared on nearly every page, “banana,” was recurring, were able to focus on the differences in punctuation marks in combination with the characters’ facial expressions, body positions, and the color of the background. nan
“Banana!” is read with an excited voice to show the strong feelings felt by the character.
“Banana?” is read with a questioning voice.
I love it when I prove myself wrong and am able to think about something in a new way. Because the illustrations and storyline in Banana! are so simplistic, preschool-aged children are able to think critically about basic conventions of the English language while still enjoying the book.
Can you think of any other simplistic picture books that are great for the dual purpose of entertaining and educating?
The scene is familiar. You and your little one (or ones) are ready to share a story.
You have found the perfect space to cuddle up in. Perhaps, it’s the living room sofa and you’ve tuned out the chaos of toys and clutter around you… Or, you may be nestled in the cozy little reading niche you so carefully designed with these moments in mind… Are you tucked under the covers of a bed much too small for your adult frame, but absolutely perfect for the growing readers in your life?
You’ve found the perfect book (or stacks of books) to share. It may be a brand new book carefully chosen for your children by a beloved family member. It may be an old favorite, read on a nightly basis. Are you opening a book chosen by your child from his or her school library?
Truly, it matters neither WHERE nor WHAT you plan to read.
To make the reading experience more meaningful for both you and your child, DO THIS before you share that story.
STEP 1: Examine the cover of the book with your child.
Take a moment to encourage your child to look closely at the cover of the book. Ask your child to look at the cover illustration, look at the title, look at the author and the illustrator.
STEP 2: Ask your child, “What do you notice?“
Listen carefully to their answer and repeat it back to them, paraphrasing as necessary.
STEP 3: Follow with this question, “What makes you think that?“
Again, listen carefully to their answer. Respond meaningfully. Connect their ideas to shared experiences. Encourage them to elaborate when necessary. Correct inaccuracies gently.
Repeat Steps 1-3until you have thoroughly ignited the child’s interest in the book.
This strategy is based on a method known asVisual Thinking Strategies. Originating from the visual arts, Visual Thinking Strategies (VTS) value the child’s perspective and encourages increased engagement and critical thinking.
When applied to the world of picture books, biblio|parenting VTS transforms the child at from a passive participant in the experience of sharing a story, to an active participant whose thoughts are valued and whose background knowledge is primed to make connections.
This strategy can be also be utilized with individual illustrations within the book and in an educational setting with classes of students.
Stay tuned for a video demonstrating biblio|parenting VTS in action!
As soon as I read Sherri Duskey Rinker’s brand-new book, Silly Wonderful You, I knew that I had found the perfect baby shower gift.
I love attending baby showers. I love eating pastel-colored desserts while watching an unsuspecting woman open teeny-tiny articles of clothing or gigantic modern parenting marvels. I love watching her politely thank the giver for her generosity while occasionally making comments revealing that she, the mother-to-be has no idea what is truly in store. I love exchanging knowing glances with the other experienced mothers in the room. I am part of their club.
I am surviving motherhood. And none of it is anything like I imagined it would be. It is even better that I dreamed it could be.
The tone of Silly Wonderful You perfect captures this sentiment. Like her previous bestseller, Goodnight, Goodnight Construction Site, Rinker perfectly captures the seemingly boundless energy of early childhood. Written as a heartfelt letter from a parent to her child, each individual page depicts an everyday mommy-and-child moment. From a “bright-eyed alarm clock” waking her sleeping mommy to a child typhoon drenching the bathroom as her mother gives her a bath, this book is what it means to be a parent.
The epitome of everyday parenting, Silly Wonderful You by Sherri Duskey Rinker is the perfect baby shower gift.
Now, let’s take it to the next level. Here is what you need to do:
Purchase a copy of Silly Wonderful You. (I’m an Amazon Prime member and a loyal Sherri Duskey Rinker fan, so mine was preordered, of course.)
Next, write a little note anywhere in the book about your own mommy-and-child moments. Extra points for including a photo that captures that moment! Make sure to sign your note for the mother-to-be.
Add a heartfelt note describing your own mommy-and-child moment!
My “jumpy” superhero, Noah
Next, pass the book on to another baby shower invitee and, presumably, important person in the mother-to-be’s life. Ask her to choose a different page and add her own mommy-and-child moment. It is now her turn to pass the book on. If a list of of the baby shower invitees can be obtained from the hostess, it should be included with the book as it is passed along.
These notes may be written as the book is passed from guest to guest at the actual shower, but the notes tend to be more heartfelt if the writer is given time to think and the opportunity to include a photograph.
I am certain that any mother-to-be would love this special gift. For less than $20, you can give a biblio|parenting gift that she will treasure forever!
Do you have any wonderful biblio|parenting gift ideas? I would love to hear from you!
In case you’re not familiar, Storyline Online, a website sponsored by the SAG-AFTRA Foundation, “records well-known actors reading children’s books and makes graphically dynamic videos so that children around the world can be read to with just the click of a Storyline Online video book image”.
While, of course, this multimedia presentation will not and should not replace the magical moment that occurs when a child cuddles up to an adult to share a story, Storyline Online is a wonderful literary resource for anyone interested in biblio|parenting.
Watching and listening to a talented actor portray the characters in a story provides children with yet another way to connect.
My budding artist, Noah, loved this tail/tale of friendship between “a painterly pig and an artsy cow”. I loved that it exposed him to an important theme, respecting individual differences, and the work of renowned artists. So much so, in fact, that I interlibrary-loaned (borrowed from another school library) a print copy.
After reading this with both boys several times and closely examining the styles of both Picasso and Matisse, I hit Pinterest for ideas on taking this to the next level.
Though I am not an art teacher, as a school librarian, I certainly appreciate a well-constructed lesson plan. Katie’s lesson plan inspired me to guide the boys in creating their own Pigassos.
We began by looking carefully at Nina Laden’s illustrations of Pigasso, as well as some of Pablo Picasso’s paintings from his Cubist period. We discussed how the famous artist Picasso, and the character Pigasso, had “interesting” faces. The parts of the face — the eyes, the nose (or, in Pigasso’s case, snout), the mouth — were not always in the right places. They were silly! In order to paint our own Pigassos, we decided, we would need to make them silly.
Although I could have had the boys draw their own eyes, snout, and mouth (or cut them out of magazines), I opted to let them direct me instead because I really liked the way that the Sharpie marker would stand out in contrast to the watercolor paint. The boys are not quite responsible enough to use Sharpies yet and while crayons could have done the job, Magic markers would have smeared and run when the boys began painting.
After each of the artists directed me as to where to draw eyes, snout, and mouth to their circles, I added a jaunty beret and curly tail outside of each circle.
Before freeing the artists to paint their Pigasso’s, I took Katie Morris’ advice and spent a few minutes exploring the concepts of warm colors and cool colors. One of her stated objectives was:
The students will apply knowledge of warm and cool colors in the creation of their drawings.
After looking carefully at our Crayola Washable Watercolor palettes, we were able to identify the warm colors and the cool colors. Noah decided to paint his Pigasso in warm colors and his background in cool colors. In typical twin fashion, Ryan decided on the reverse — a cool Pigasso with a warm background.
I recently attended a regional conference for school librarians that has changed my life and, unwittingly, the lives of my family members.
Keynote speaker, Shannon McClintock Miller, challenged the other members of the audience and I to utilize the technology at our fingertips to do what the library has always done – connect readers to new people, places, and ideas. Throughout her engaging presentation, she managed to casually mention the names of some of my biggest author crushes as she described her social media interactions while managing to maintain her wholesome, Midwest persona.
Why hadn’t I done this? Why hadn’t I connected with or even attempted to connect with the people whose books inspire me, my children, and my students each and every day?
Like many out there, I’m a bit of a social media junkie. I often begin and end my days with Facebook. Twitter and Instagram are downloaded to my iPhone, though Snapchat is a bit too “youthful” for this over-30 mother-of-two. Why was I wasting my time browsing the posts of people I never talked to in high school when I could be swooning over picture book authors?
And that’s when the conference fell apart for me and I began to find my biblio|parenting voice.
Instead of giving my complete and total attention to the session speakers (as I would ask of my students), I began obsessively searching Facebook for authors to friend (the verb).
Why was I doing this?
At first, I’ll admit, I was on a bit of a Facebook-stalking kind-of high. Librarian searching skills do apply to social media too, you know…
Then, I made an actual connection.
Thank you, author Nina Laden, for taking a chance on a random friend request and opening a line of communication…
I had connected. With an actual author.
The overexcited fangirl in me squee-ed!!!
And then, the adult took over. I had accomplished my goal. Now what?