Author/Illustrator: Matthew Cordell Publisher: Feiwel and Friends, 2012 Age: 3-7 Themes: brothers, imitation, family life Opening: For four glorious years, Davy had Mom and Dad all to himself. Summary: (from my library’s catalog) Davy the sheep wishes he had time alone with his parents, as he did before his 12 brothers came along and started imitating his every move, but when his wish comes true Davy misses playing with the youngsters.
Why I like this book: I was won over immediately by the cover, but Davy’s headband sealed it! A great character and though the situation is one often portrayed in books, the uniqueness comes with the amplification: 12 brothers! There is so much to notice in what looks like sparse illustrations – and all of it is hysterical! LOVE this book!
Resources/Activities: Lots of good questions for a discussion: How many siblings do you have? Are you the oldest, middle or youngest? Do you have step-siblings? What kinds of things do you enjoy doing together? What things would you rather do alone?
For more Perfect Picture Book picks with teacher/parent resources, check out the list on Susanna Hill’s blog HERE.
Publisher: Farra, Straus and Giroux, 1988, 1st ed. Ages: 4-8yrs Themes: humorous stories, family life, anger Opening: Spinky came charging out of the house and flung himself on the grass. Summary: Spinky is convinced that his family hates him and goes off to sulk in his hammock. His brother and sister try to make amends. His mom even brings him a beautiful tray of food. But nothing can get Spinky to stop sulking—not even a circus passing by on his street! Will Spinky ever cheer up? Spinky Sulks is another delightful tale from the incomparable William Steig that will leave readers of all ages smiling.
I like this book because: I have vivid memories of feeling that same kind of all-the-world-against-me anger, of hiding, as per usual, under the middle pine tree for as long as need be. As a parent I can laugh at the familiar attempts made and lengths taken, over-stretched, to console the poor child. There were times we were not even allowed to look at my oldest at the breakfast table – but we can all laugh now!
Resources/activities: great discussion starter on feelings, anger, moodiness, cheering up a friend or letting them have their space, and how we might help ourselves when a bad mood is coming on. For adults, writers especially: read this post on Neruda and his childhood realization about our ‘longing for mutuality that impels us to make art’, at Brain Pickings –HERE
Today’s tidbit: Letters of Note post on Steig’s Caldecott acceptance speech and glossophobia- HERE
Author/Illustrator: Lane Smith Publisher: Viking, 1993 Age: 3-5 (debatable; read on…) Themes: family life, humorous stories Opening:We Are the Hocky Family. I am Mr. Hocky! I am Mrs. Hocky! I am Baby Hocky! I am Henry Hocky! I am Holly Hocky! I am Newton! Summary: A series of short silly stories written in the simple structure of a Dick and Jane book. But with an unusual sense of humor. (read on…)
Why I like this book: (If you haven’t noticed, my November picks are a little edgy, a bit darker – like November.) The humor is not necessarily the kind one usually finds in a picture book. In fact, when I first found this I was a bit shocked. But, sure enough, it held power over me, because I bought it, and I don’t really buy that many books. I put it on the shelf. As long as it would let me. When people stopped by, I started showing it to see how others reacted. Everyone laughed and we all agreed this was no typical picture book. That’s why I debate the age range given on the Amazon site, listed above. It’s for ALL us kids. We all laugh without turning the pages looking for the typical happy end, actually we just look forward to what Smith has thought of next! This is more about real life – we make mistakes, things get broken, and we don’t have to like everything about everyone. So I would suggest a parent read this themselves before sharing it with kids, because some parents might not be pleasantly surprised. In my opinion, kids are more comfortable with themselves.
Resources/Activities:the illustrations are very simple throughout, easy for a young person to emulate, but go to Ed Emberley’s blog Drawing Pages for lots of great suggestions and instructions on drawing with simple shapes; check out this must-read conversation-style review, between a dad and his kids – on Bookie Woogie; now that you’ve read the review, have a similar discussion with kids about what it is they see in the book, not what we assume they might. You might be pleasantly surprised!
More PPBF picks and resources for teachers and parents – HERE
Author:Barbara Jean Hicks Illustrator:Alexis Deacon Publisher: Farrar, Strauss and Giroux, 2004 Age Level: 4-8 Themes: monsters, fear, family life Opening: Nobody believes me, and my brother Buster says I’m a fraidy-cat, but I’m not fooling you: there’s a boy who hides in my big old monster closet all night long and then sneaks under my bed in the morning on purpose to scare me. Summary: (from the publisher) Bobo is a young monster who’s afraid to sleep in his own bed. He is sure there is a boy hiding beneath it – a boy with “pink skin and orange fur on his head where his horns should be.” Bobo’s older brother thinks he’s a fraidy-cat, but his grandpa, Boo-Dad, knows all about these fearful creatures. And Boo-Dad knows exactly what to do to scare them away. But after being afraid for so long, Bobo might just want to take matters into his own paws and find out if the creature under his bed really is as bad as he thinks. Why I like this book: The illustrations are unique, which is why I checked this out from my library, but the rhythms and sounds throughout the text had me reading it over and over again.Good old-fashioned storytelling with a delightful twist. Resources/Activities: Draw your own monster; make paper-bag monster puppets; make your own jam – try frog jam (fig, raspberry, orange and ginger); be Bobo for Halloween: make a monstermask, dress in ‘jammies, and carry a reptile stuffed animal.
Visit Susanna Leonard Hill’s blog for more Perfect Picture Books, listed alphabetically, by title, theme and age level, including resources and activity ideas for teachers.