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Picture Books Minus the Age Stereotypes and Ageism

Imag­ine for a moment — you are read­ing to a sweet six year old grand­child. Per­haps you have sil­very hair and a few wrin­kles. Or per­haps you are not there, yet. This six year old snug­gles close and hands you a pic­ture book to read out loud. The pages reveal a boun­cy rhyming rhythm, chil­dren, an old­er char­ac­ter, and unfor­tu­nate­ly — words like fusty, dusty, rusty, and musty. Also grumpy and frumpy.

grandpa reading

Do you?

  • Read with your good nature intact and shrug it off
  • Stop mid-page and throw the book at the wall
  • Quick­ly recap­ture the Pig Latin of your youth and improvise…ustyfay, usty­day, ustyray, umpygray!

Per­son­al­ly, I look for­ward to being a Nana some­day soon, but my Pig Latin is no longer that good, and my grown kids will tell you that I would nev­er choose option A.

Mod­ern day children’s books rid­dled with neg­a­tive stereo­types of age? Sad­ly yes, they are all too easy to find. In part because pub­lish­ers desire a child pro­tag­o­nist. This neces­si­tates adding a prob­lem if the writer includes an old­er char­ac­ter. Many authors reach for stereo­types, because much of what we think we know about grow­ing old­er is myth, not fact. But stereo­typ­ing old­er adults con­tributes to ageism. And in the end that hurts us all.

From where I sit, writ­ing pic­ture books, there seems to be three basic types to beware of:

  • Those that total­ly exploit the stereo­types (sad­ly, mad­ly, and badly).
  • Those that are well-mean­ing, even ten­der, but per­pet­u­ate “old­er adult means lone­ly, sick, for­get­ful, dependent….”
  • Those with illus­tra­tions send­ing mes­sages that old­er peo­ple are fun­ny, freaky, frumpy or foolish.

For­tu­nate­ly, pic­ture books do exist that make hav­ing many, many birth­days seem like a good thing. Those that show late life as inter­est­ing and reward­ing. And por­tray aging as a life­long process, both nor­mal and natural.

It tru­ly mat­ters what young chil­dren believe. Research con­duct­ed by Bec­ca Levy, Ph.D. of Yale Uni­ver­si­ty finds that tak­ing in neg­a­tive age stereo­types shapes our old­er years and even short­ens our lives. Sim­ply see­ing old age and aging in a pos­i­tive light helps us make good deci­sions, affects our car­dio­vas­cu­lar health and helps us live longer and health­i­er. By up to 7.5 years!

We become what we think as we get old­er. Today’s chil­dren are like­ly to live long. Let’s all plant the seeds for their late life health and hap­pi­ness. Nor­mal aging is NOT about stereo­types like decline and death, ill­ness and demen­tia, or lone­li­ness and grumpi­ness. In fact, research tells us there is a “U‑curve of hap­pi­ness” — with hap­pi­ness peak­ing in child­hood and late life. Our old­er years are most often a time of sat­is­fac­tion and growth.

San­dra L. McGuire RN, EdD has long stud­ied images of aging in children’s lit­er­a­ture. She notes that far too many are neg­a­tive, or make old­er adults invis­i­ble. “I like pic­ture books that por­tray old­er adults in diverse roles like lead­ers, work­ers, vol­un­teers, artists, teach­ers and care­givers,” says Dr. McGuire. “Bio­graph­i­cal books that illus­trate grow­ing up and grow­ing old­er are impor­tant also.”

Old­er adults are actu­al­ly an inter­est­ing bunch. Ageism robs us of the recog­ni­tion that we pos­sess skills and strengths because of our age and expe­ri­ence. It steals away indi­vid­u­al­i­ty caus­ing youngers to believe in a mono­lith­ic “elder­ly.”

On my web­site and blog “A is for Aging” Dr. McGuire and I high­light pic­ture books that por­tray old­er adults and grow­ing old­er in pos­i­tive, affirm­ing ways. Minus the neg­a­tive age stereo­types. Old­er role mod­els, even in pic­ture books, show us the knowl­edge, inner strength and cre­ativ­i­ty in peo­ple in lat­er life. Let’s show kids ter­rif­ic old­er role mod­els. Let’s all make an effort to nip ageism in the bud.

For starters, please check out this list of cur­rent non-stereo­typ­ic pic­ture books about old­er adults. Many more are list­ed at www.lindseymcdivitt.com. Please con­sid­er sign­ing up for blog posts reviews of new “Pos­i­tive Aging” pic­ture books.

  • Grand­par­ents by Chema Heras
  • Har­ry and Wal­ter by Kathy Stinson
  • Henri’s Scis­sors by Jeanette Winter
  • Jin­gle Dancer by Cyn­thia Leitich Smith
  • Julián is a Mer­maid by Jes­si­ca Love
  • George Bak­er by Amy Hest
  • McGinty’s Mon­archs by Lin­da Van­der Heyden
  • My Teacher by James Ransome
  • Nature’s Friend: The Gwen Fros­tic Sto­ry by Lind­sey McDivitt
  • North­woods Girl and Miss Colfax’s Light by Aimee Bissonette
  • The Ocean Calls by Tina Cho
  • The Wakame Gath­er­ers by Hol­ly Thompson
grandma reading

Vera’s Story Garden

Ver­a’s Sto­ry Gar­den Established 
as a Lit­er­ary Land­mark by Unit­ed for Libraries May 4, 2019

by Mary Paige Lang-Clouse, Director
Ethel­bert B. Craw­ford Pub­lic Library
Mon­ti­cel­lo NY

Vera B. Williams

Vera B. Williams

I met Vera B. Williams in the ear­ly 2000s while work­ing at the pub­lic library in Nar­rows­burg, N.Y. It should come as no sur­prise to any­one that knew her that Vera didn’t waste any time iden­ti­fy­ing and using her local pub­lic library. She offered sev­er­al pro­grams at that library for chil­dren as well as shar­ing her wis­dom about writ­ing and illus­trat­ing books for chil­dren with the youth ser­vices librar­i­ans of the Ramapo Catskill Library Sys­tem (RCLS), the pub­lic library sys­tem serv­ing all the Sul­li­van, Orange, and Rock­land Coun­ty pub­lic libraries as well as a few in Ulster Coun­ty. I think Vera was very gen­er­ous to the libraries in her com­mu­ni­ty large­ly because she rec­og­nized their val­ue and she chose to live hers.

Home at LastThe cre­ation of the Sto­ry Gar­den as a Lit­er­ary Land­mark along­side the Ethel­bert B. Craw­ford Pub­lic Library in Mon­ti­cel­lo, N.Y., will serve as a last­ing lega­cy to Vera B. Williams, her sto­ries and illus­tra­tions, and to the inspi­ra­tion she gave to the chil­dren she wrote them for. Unit­ed for Libraries, a divi­sion of the Amer­i­can Library Asso­ci­a­tion with a mis­sion to sup­port those who gov­ern, pro­mote, advo­cate, and fund raise for all types of libraries, accept­ed the appli­ca­tion of the library for its sto­ry gar­den to be des­ig­nat­ed as a Lit­er­ary Land­mark in hon­or of the con­tri­bu­tions to children’s lit­er­a­ture made by Vera B. Williams dur­ing her life­time and in Sul­li­van Coun­ty. Williams’ last book, Home at Last, was one she worked on col­lab­o­ra­tive­ly with Chris Rasch­ka from her home in Nar­rows­burg until her death in Octo­ber, 2015. It was our good for­tune that Vera B. Williams chose to live the last 15 years of her life in Sul­li­van Coun­ty and that she was no stranger to the pub­lic libraries in her community.

Vera gave back. She did a school vis­it at the Robert J. Kaiser Mid­dle School in Mon­ti­cel­lo, much like the many she’d done dur­ing her years liv­ing down in Brook­lyn. That vis­it made a last­ing impres­sion on both the stu­dents and teach­ers. She also gen­er­ous­ly donat­ed an antique library chair she designed for a fundrais­ing auc­tion the Friends of the Ethel­bert B. Craw­ford Pub­lic Library held back in 2011 dur­ing a cel­e­bra­tion of the library’s 75th Anniver­sary. I’m hap­py to report that that chair sits in the library of a pub­lic school in Orange Coun­ty, N.Y.

Vera's Story Garden

A Chair for My MotherWhen plans for the new library were get­ting under­way there was a desire to have a “big, fat, com­fort­able, won­der­ful chair” — like the one in Ms. Williams’ Calde­cott Hon­or book, A Chair for My Moth­er—in the new children’s room — for peo­ple to cozy up togeth­er in and read but there wasn’t room for a chair of such grandeur there. Instead one was built — out­side — in what became Vera’s Sto­ry Gar­den. Our land­scap­er got cre­ative and, with the help of a local mosa­ic artist, our chair became a real­i­ty. The idea to estab­lish a Lit­er­ary Land­mark was put in my head by the youth ser­vices con­sul­tant at RCLS at that time, Ran­dall Enos. I am so glad he did — and how fit­ting that we were able to receive this won­der­ful des­ig­na­tion dur­ing the 100th Anniver­sary of Children’s Book Week. I think Vera would have been pleased.


Perfect Pairs

Bookol­o­gy is delight­ed to fea­ture a sam­ple les­son from Per­fect Pairs: Using Fic­tion & Non­fic­tion Pic­ture Books to Teach Life Sci­ence, K‑2 by children’s book author Melis­sa Stew­art and mas­ter edu­ca­tor Nan­cy Ches­ley (Sten­house Pub­lish­ers). When this book (and its com­pan­ion for grades 3 – 5) first came across our desk, we were blown away by its per­cep­tion and use­ful­ness. For edu­ca­tors who are not as con­fi­dent teach­ing sci­ence as they are lan­guage arts and writ­ing, here’s an excel­lent resource to help you stand more assured­ly in front of your stu­dents, know­ing they’ll be moti­vat­ed to explore science.

Perfect Pairs

We’re grate­ful to Melis­sa, Nan­cy, and Sten­house Pub­lish­ers for the oppor­tu­ni­ty to give you a clear view inside the Per­fect Pairs resources. This grade 2 les­son, How Wind Water, and Ani­mals Dis­perse Seeds,” (click for the les­son plan) fea­tures two tru­ly won­der­ful books, Miss Maple’s Seeds by Eliza Wheel­er and Plant­i­ng the Wild Gar­den by Kathryn O. Gail­braith and Wendy Ander­son Halperin. [This les­son plan is from Per­fect Pairs:Using Fic­tion and Non­fic­tion Pic­ture Books to Teach Life Sci­ence, K‑2 by Melis­sa Stew­art and Nan­cy Ches­ley copy­right © 2014, repro­duced with per­mis­sion of Sten­house Pub­lish­ers. stenhouse.com]

Planting the Wild Garden and Miss Maple's Seeds

Melis­sa Stew­art has also been lead­ing the way for every­one who works with young minds to incor­po­rate the five kinds of non­fic­tion into their school and class­room libraries as well as their ELA and con­tent area instruc­tion, so we’ve decid­ed to ask her a few questions.

Melis­sa, when you and edu­ca­tor Nan­cy Ches­ley decid­ed to cre­ate Per­fect Pairs, what did you feel was the most press­ing need for these fic­tion-non­fic­tion, life sci­ence matchups, and accom­pa­ny­ing les­son plans?

In recent years, many ele­men­tary teach­ers have been asked to devote more time to lan­guage arts and math in an effort to improve stu­dent scores on assess­ment tests. As a result, many K‑5 stu­dents receive lim­it­ed sci­ence instruc­tion, and many mid­dle school stu­dents are sore­ly lack­ing in basic sci­ence knowl­edge and skills.

In addi­tion, many ele­men­tary teach­ers do not have a strong sci­ence back­ground. Some even report being intim­i­dat­ed by their school’s sci­ence cur­ricu­lum and feel ill equipped to teach basic sci­ence con­cepts. Build­ing sci­ence lessons around children’s books enables many ele­men­tary edu­ca­tors to approach sci­ence instruc­tion with greater con­fi­dence. And because our lessons incor­po­rate sig­nif­i­cant read­ing and writ­ing, they allow teach­ers to teach sci­ence with­out com­pro­mis­ing lan­guage arts instruc­tion time.

Because some chil­dren love fic­tion while oth­ers pre­fer non­fic­tion, pair­ing books is an effec­tive way to intro­duce sci­ence con­cepts. And when a book pair is pre­sent­ed in con­junc­tion with inno­v­a­tive, minds-on activ­i­ties that appeal to a wide vari­ety of learn­ing styles, stu­dents are even more like­ly to remem­ber the expe­ri­ence — and the con­tent. That’s what Per­fect Pairs is all about.

In the Intro­duc­tion to Per­fect Pairs, you state that the lessons in the book address the Next Gen­er­a­tion Sci­ence Stan­dards (NGSS) and sup­port the Com­mon Core State Stan­dards for Eng­lish Lan­guage Arts. Why is this ben­e­fi­cial for educators?

Com­mon Core and NGSS form the foun­da­tion for all cur­rent state ELA and sci­ence stan­dards — even in states that nev­er offi­cial­ly adopt­ed them, so when teach­ers use the lessons in Per­fect Pairs, they can be con­fi­dent that they are teach­ing stu­dents the crit­i­cal con­cepts and skills they need to know.

To help teach­ers track how each les­son relates to the stan­dards, tables in the Appen­dix of Per­fect Pairs spec­i­fy which NGSS Per­for­mance Expec­ta­tion and Sci­ence and Engi­neer­ing Prac­tices each les­son address­es. A sec­ond set of tables indi­cates which Com­mon Core stan­dards for Read­ing Lit­er­a­ture, Read­ing Infor­ma­tion­al Text, Writ­ing, and Speak­ing and Lis­ten­ing each les­son supports.

In Per­fect Pairs, you also write that “In recent years, a new kind of chil­dren’s non­fic­tion has emerged. These inno­v­a­tive titles are remark­ably cre­ative and com­pelling. Their pur­pose is to delight as well as inform.”

On your high­ly-regard­ed blog, Cel­e­brate Sci­ence, you often share lists of these fine­ly-craft­ed non­fic­tion books. You also write about the craft of non­fic­tion writ­ing and include inno­v­a­tive activ­i­ties and strate­gies for teach­ing infor­ma­tion­al read­ing and writ­ing. What keeps you com­mit­ted to your mis­sion to bring more non­fic­tion to young readers?

The kids.

Many edu­ca­tors have a nat­ur­al affin­i­ty for sto­ries and sto­ry­telling, so they con­nect strong­ly with fic­tion. When they choose non­fic­tion, they grav­i­tate toward nar­ra­tive non­fic­tion because it tells true stories.

5 Kinds of Nonfiction

Click on this image for down­load­able resources from Melis­sa Stew­art’s website.

And yet, stud­ies show that as many as 75 per­cent of ele­men­tary stu­dents enjoy read­ing non­fic­tion with an expos­i­to­ry writ­ing style as much as (33 per­cent) or more than (42 per­cent) nar­ra­tives. If we want all stu­dents to devel­op a love of read­ing, we need to give them access to a diverse array of fic­tion, nar­ra­tive non­fic­tion, and expos­i­to­ry nonfiction.

As stu­dents mature as read­ers, we can help them devel­op an appre­ci­a­tion for oth­er kinds of writ­ing. But first, we must show kids that we hon­or all books and val­ue all reading.

To help edu­ca­tors accom­plish this goal, I worked with Mar­lene Cor­reia, past pres­i­dent of the Mass­a­chu­setts Read­ing Asso­ci­a­tion and Direc­tor of Cur­ricu­lum and Assess­ment for the Free­town-Lakeville Region­al School Dis­trict in Lakeville, MA, to devel­op an info­graph­ic that high­lights five easy ways edu­ca­tors can share more expos­i­to­ry non­fic­tion with their students.


School-Themed Books That Build Empathy

Dur­ing one of our vis­its to our local library in late sum­mer, sev­er­al of the books on dis­play caught my eye. School was the com­mon thread, and my fam­i­ly found some good con­ver­sa­tion starters among the titles. I’ll high­light three that have mer­it as texts that help build empa­thy and/or broad­en chil­dren’s views about school and education.

Hannah's WayBased on a true sto­ry, Han­nah’s Way by Lin­da Glaser is set on Minnesota’s Iron Range dur­ing the Depres­sion. Hannah’s fam­i­ly had moved from Min­neapo­lis to North­ern Min­neso­ta so her father could work at his brother’s store. Han­nah was the only Jew­ish child in her new school. When the teacher announced the school pic­nic, she was hope­ful that attend­ing the pic­nic would help her fit in and make friends. She was crest­fall­en to learn, how­ev­er, that the school pic­nic would be on a Sat­ur­day. “You know that Sat­ur­day is our day of rest. We don’t work or dri­ve on the Sab­bath,” her father remind­ed her. When she real­ized that her par­ents wouldn’t bend on this rule, she end­ed up talk­ing to her teacher about the sit­u­a­tion. She was afraid peo­ple at school sim­ply would not under­stand, but was sur­prised by her class­mates’ kind ges­ture that helped ensure she made it to the picnic.

Letter to My TeacherA Let­ter to My Teacher by Deb­o­rah Hop­kin­son is writ­ten as a thank you note to a sec­ond grade teacher who made a last­ing impres­sion on the writer. The nar­ra­tor admits she found it hard to sit still and lis­ten when she was in sec­ond grade. She described sev­er­al spe­cif­ic events that illus­trat­ed how “ornery” and “exas­per­at­ing” she was, but also showed that this teacher, who is the recip­i­ent of the let­ter, was patient and gave her extra help and encour­age­ment as need­ed. She then dis­closed that she’s start­ing her first job now and will “try my best to be like you.” This could be an encour­ag­ing book to pass along to an impor­tant edu­ca­tor in your life.

School Days Around the WorldIn School Days Around the World by Cather­ine Cham­bers, sev­en chil­dren pro­vide an account of what it is like to go to school in their respec­tive coun­tries: Aus­tralia, Japan, India, Ghana, Eng­land, the Unit­ed States, and Peru. There is plen­ty to com­pare and con­trast in this book, which reveals impor­tant aspects of the dif­fer­ent cul­tures as it pro­vides details about each child’s before-school rou­tine, their school sched­ules, lunch time, and the activ­i­ties they do at recess. The book shows that though the schools in dif­fer­ent coun­tries have some marked dif­fer­ences, there are quite a few sim­i­lar­i­ties. For exam­ple, chil­dren all around the world play games, cel­e­brate Earth Day, and do math in school.


Changing Science Fiction Forever

All-Story Magazineby Vic­ki Palmquist

In its Octo­ber 1912 issue, All-Sto­ry Mag­a­zine pub­lished a short sto­ry by Edgar Rice Bur­roughs called “Tarzan of the Apes.” Do you remem­ber the plot? John Clay­ton is born to par­ents who are marooned on the west coast of Africa. His par­ents, Lord and Lady Greystoke, die on his first birth­day. John is adopt­ed by Kala, an ape, who moth­ers him as one of her own. He is that child who is unaware he is human. He goes on to be a man more com­fort­able in the jun­gle than he is among the gen­try, his birthright. He grows up and mar­ries Jane Porter but he returns to his loin­cloth-and-knife exis­tence as often as he can.

For many years, Tarzan of the Apes with its near­ly flaw­less male hero was one of the books con­stant­ly named as a favorite among teen read­ers. Read­ing the book, one could imag­ine one­self liv­ing out­side of soci­ety and any imposed restric­tions and expec­ta­tions. The jun­gle seemed like a hos­pitable place which, although very dan­ger­ous, offered oppor­tu­ni­ties to prove the met­tle of your existence.

These books can be viewed through a nos­tal­gic, his­tor­i­cal lens as being writ­ten at a time when Bur­roughs, proud of his Anglo-Sax­on her­itage, wrote with the colo­nial view­point of white Eng­lish suprema­cy. Today’s read­ers will find his atti­tude dat­ed, if not repug­nant, and yet the Tarzan books are a part of our grow­ing-up as read­ers and their influ­ence on an entire genre of fic­tion con­tin­ues to be acknowledged.


Dr. Jane GoodallTarzan of the Apes does, indeed, have a tie-in with our Book­storm™ this month, Untamed: the Wild Life of Jane Goodall by Ani­ta Sil­vey (Nation­al Geographic).

In a 2012 inter­view on Big Issue, Dr. Goodall wrote: “I read the Tarzan books and of course I fell com­plete­ly in love with Tarzan. I felt he’d mar­ried the wrong Jane — it should have been me. I was very jeal­ous of Jane. My mum saved up to take me to see a Tarzan film at the cin­e­ma but a few min­utes in I got very upset and had to be tak­en out. I said: ‘That wasn’t Tarzan.’ John­ny Weiss­muller was not how I imag­ined Tarzan at all. And to this day I’ve nev­er ever watched anoth­er Tarzan film.” (Pho­to: Dr. Jane Goodall, tak­en by jeekc in 2007, Cre­ative Com­mons license.)


Music of the DolphinsIn lit­er­a­ture and in sci­ence, chil­dren who are lost or aban­doned in the wild are called “fer­al chil­dren.” There are a num­ber of sto­ries and books, offer­ing evi­dence of our fas­ci­na­tion with this concept.

Gil­gamesh, Romu­lus and Remus, and Pecos Bill are clas­si­cal­ly rep­re­sent­ed as chil­dren raised by animals.

You may have read the fol­low­ing books or you’re adding them to your TBR pile now.

  • Mila in Music of the Dol­phins by Karen Hesse
  • Peter Pan by J.M. Barrie
  • Mowgli in The Jun­gle Book by Rud­yard Kipling
  • The Blue Lagoon by Scott O’Dell
  • Valen­tine Michael Smith in Robert Heinlein’s Stranger in a Strange Land was raised by Mar­tians. This is not pre­cise­ly fit­ting with the def­i­n­i­tion of fer­al chil­dren but, hav­ing nev­er met a Mar­t­ian, I’m not sure.
  • Even Gilligan’s Island had an episode with a “jun­gle boy,” played by Kurt Russell

Here’s an arti­cle about “Fer­al Chil­dren: Mind Blow­ing Cas­es of Chil­dren Raised by Ani­mals,” writ­ten by Mihai Andrei for ZME Sci­ence


Edgar Rice BurroughsMar­ried, with two chil­dren, Bur­roughs tried his hand at many endeav­ors and did­n’t suc­ceed at any of them. The pres­sures to pro­vide a liv­ing for his fam­i­ly spurred him on to sub­mit a sto­ry he wrote for publication.

Edgar Rice Bur­roughs’ first pub­lished sto­ry was “Under the Moons of Mars,” fea­tur­ing John Carter, which appeared in All-Sto­ry Mag­a­zine in 1912. It earned him $400. He’s cred­it­ed with “help­ing to lead pulps into their gold­en era of pub­lish­ing.” 

He sold Tarzan of the Apes to the Prank A. Mun­sey com­pa­ny for $700, which is $17,164 in today’s mon­ey. He had a hard time find­ing a book pub­lish­er, but once A.C. McClurg and Com­pa­ny pub­lished Tarzan, it became a 1914 bestseller.

Edgar Rice  Bur­roughs him­self wrote, “In all these years I have not learned one sin­gle rule for writ­ing fic­tion. I still write as I did 30 years ago; sto­ries which I feel would enter­tain me and give me men­tal relax­ation, know­ing that there are mil­lions of peo­ple just like me who will like the same things I like. Any­way, I have great fun with my imag­in­ings, and I can appre­ci­ate – in a small way – the swell time God had in cre­at­ing the Universe.”

Here is Chap­ter One of John Tal­i­a­fer­ro’s biog­ra­phy, Tarzan For­ev­er, The Life of Edgar Rice Bur­roughs, Cre­ator of Tarzan.


Facsimile Dust JacketDid you know that the town of Tarzana, Cal­i­for­nia is locat­ed on Edgar Rice Bur­roughs’ for­mer 550-acre ranch, which was named, not sur­pris­ing­ly, Tarzana Ranch?

Bur­roughs had anoth­er wild­ly suc­cess­ful book series beyond Tarzan, set at the Earth’s core! Known as Pel­lu­ci­dar, there are sev­en books, which also have a fer­vent fol­low­ing. In one of the books, Tarzan finds his way to Pel­lu­ci­dar, Tarzan at the Earth’s Core

The orig­i­nal dust jack­et was hard to come by for col­lec­tors. In 2014, Phil Nor­mand of Recoverings.com recre­at­ed that orig­i­nal dust jack­et and sold it to col­lec­tors for $50.

Are you a fan of the Tarzan books? Leave a com­ment to let us know why they appeal to you.


Picture Books and Dementia

by Jen­ny Barlow

We could reach her through nurs­ery rhymes.

She reg­u­lar­ly sat in the liv­ing room, wrapped in a blan­ket in her wheel­chair. To peo­ple who don’t under­stand, she would seem with­ered, vacant, even loose in the joints, and maybe very shab­by. But we stroked her palsied hands and gen­tly called her name. On occa­sion, she’d open her eyes.

Hick­o­ry dick­o­ry,” we’d start.

Often fast, like an auc­tion­eer, she’d respond, “DOCK! The mouse ran up the clock, the sheep’s in the mead­ow the cow’s in the corn, hick­o­ry dick­o­ry dock!”

Ok, so she wasn’t perfect…but she deserved points for keep­ing with­in the nurs­ery rhyme genre. Demen­tia vis­its peo­ple dif­fer­ent­ly, but com­mon­ly the mem­o­ries it spares are ones from child­hood. Some­one, like­ly this woman’s moth­er, 90 some years ago, before WWI, before women’s suf­frage, before radio, took the time to sit with this now-wrin­kled woman as a then-chub­by-faced baby and sing her nurs­ery rhymes.

Near­ly a cen­tu­ry lat­er, we were blessed to enjoy the echoes of that love between par­ent and child.


Jen­ny in cos­tume for an activ­i­ty at work where she used the chil­dren’s book Rosie the Riv­et­er by Pen­ny Col­man, and had a dis­cus­sion about WWII,

We must not lim­it our­selves. Peo­ple of all ages and sit­u­a­tions love pic­ture books for dif­fer­ent rea­sons. Kunio Yanagida’s pic­ture book was cit­ed in The Jour­nal of Inter­gen­er­a­tional Rela­tion­ships to express why this is true:

There is a Japan­ese say­ing that one should read a pic­ture book at three dif­fer­ent times through one’s life: at first, in child­hood; sec­ond, dur­ing the peri­od of rear­ing chil­dren, and third, in lat­er life. Old­er peo­ple are thought to be par­tic­u­lar­ly impressed and feel sym­pa­thy when read­ing pic­ture books because of their rich life expe­ri­ences.1

Viral videos show how peo­ple momen­tar­i­ly awak­en hiber­nat­ing per­son­al­i­ties by hear­ing just the right song. They use the scaf­fold­ing of the music to sing words they can’t say on their own in a sen­tence, yet their expres­sions sug­gest they very much know the con­text. The same can be true with reading.

It is now uni­ver­sal­ly accept­ed that music should be used dai­ly to empow­er the lives of those with demen­tia. It is time for read­ing, inde­pen­dent­ly or in a group, to become revered in a par­al­lel light. Reflect­ing back on how the woman remem­bered nurs­ery rhymes, the leap in log­ic with children’s sto­ries becom­ing senior’s sto­ries isn’t so outlandish.

The mod­ern day world of children’s lit­er­a­ture is vast, with clas­sics like Peter Pan or The Vel­veteen Rab­bit to sophis­ti­cat­ed non-fic­tion about his­tor­i­cal moments this old­er gen­er­a­tion cre­at­ed. Well-writ­ten sto­ries stay with us, change us into bet­ter human beings, and make our own hearts wis­er. C.S. Lewis once said, “A chil­dren’s sto­ry that can only be enjoyed by chil­dren is not a good chil­dren’s sto­ry in the slightest.”

The words on the page, the illus­tra­tions woven with the sto­ry­line, the length, the page turns, the weight of the book itself: all of these aspects sup­port an inter­gen­er­a­tional mar­ket. Pre­co­cious pic­ture books work espe­cial­ly well as seniors, even those with advanced demen­tia, usu­al­ly retain much of their vocabulary. 

The form and for­mat of pic­ture books are also effec­tive for engag­ing these read­ers. Although we see old­er folks sit­ting with their cup of black cof­fee and morn­ing paper, the font size of newsprint can be hard to deci­pher, the busy­ness of the ads mixed with blocks of dif­fer­ent arti­cles can be con­fus­ing, and, due to atten­tion dif­fi­cul­ties caused by dis­ease and stress, the length of news sto­ries, let alone nov­els, can be over­whelm­ing. The design and length of pic­ture books, on the oth­er hand, wel­comes these same readers.

The Alzheimer’s Asso­ci­a­tion reports there are cur­rent­ly over five mil­lion peo­ple in the Unit­ed States with this type of demen­tia, and that num­ber may triple in the next 35 years.2 The per­cent­age of the U.S. pop­u­la­tion made of chil­dren ages 12 and younger will dip in that same time peri­od.3 The busi­ness of writ­ing pic­ture books and plac­ing them with the per­fect read­er can, and should, grow up. 

There is a blue ocean of under-served and under­es­ti­mat­ed peo­ple, bro­ken-in-body chil­dren-at-heart, who need us. Pic­ture books can help fam­i­lies express love to those they thought they had lost. We already have the pow­er, we just need the refram­ing mind­set. It’s sim­ple, real­ly; we can even reach them through nurs­ery rhymes.

Long live “children’s” literature.

Note from the Bookol­o­gist: Jen­ny sug­gests these pic­ture books to begin with:

Grand­fa­ther’s Jour­ney by Allen Say

The Name Quilt by Phyl­lis Root, illus. by Mar­got Apple

The Road to Oz: Twists, Turns, Bumps, and Tri­umphs in the Life of L.Frank Baum by Kath­leen Krull, illus. Kevin Hawkes

A Nation’s Hope: the Sto­ry of Box­ing Leg­end Joe Lewis by Matt De La Pena, illus. Kadir Nelson

Up North at the Cab­in by Mar­sha Wil­son Chall, illus. Steve Johnson


1. http://pages.stern.nyu.edu/~kbrabazo/Eval-repository/Repository-Articles/reprints%20japan%20program.pdf

2. http://www.alz.org/facts/overview.asp

3. http://www.childtrends.org/wp-content/uploads/2012/07/53_appendix1.pdf


I Would Like to Thank…

The annu­al meet­ing of the Amer­i­can Library Asso­ci­a­tion begins this week. The win­ners of the var­i­ous book awards are no doubt eye­ing the fes­tiv­i­ties with some trep­i­da­tion because they will be pre­sent­ing speech­es. This has been going on since the first New­bery Award was pre­sent­ed in 1922. Tra­di­tion­al­ly called “Accep­tance Papers,” the speech­es are the bul­l’s-eye of events that have over the years mor­phed from nice lit­tle white-glove lun­cheons into galas.

The Bookol­o­gist has been por­ing over the papers from the first 50+ years of the New­bery and Calde­cott awards* and thought, in cel­e­bra­tion of the speechi­fy­ing that will soon be going on in San Fran­cis­co, to share some snip­pets from speech­es past. Enjoy.



Mahoney, Bertha Miller, and Eli­nor Whit­ney Field, eds. New­bery Medal Books, 1922 – 1955, with Their Author’s Accep­tance Papers & Relat­ed Mate­r­i­al Chiefly from the Horn Book Mag­a­zine. Boston: Horn Book, 1955. Print.

Mahoney, Bertha Miller, and Eli­nor Whit­ney Field, eds. Calde­cott medal books, 1938 – 1957, with the Artist’s Accep­tance Papers & Relat­ed Mate­r­i­al Chiefly from the Horn Book Mag­a­zine. Boston: Horn Book, 1957. Print.

King­man, Lee, ed. New­bery and Calde­cott medal books, 1956 – 1965: with accep­tance papers, biogra­phies, and relat­ed mate­r­i­al chiefly from the Horn book mag­a­zine. Boston: Horn Book, 1965. Print.

King­man, Lee, ed. New­bery and Calde­cott medal books, 1966 – 1975: with accep­tance papers, biogra­phies, and relat­ed mate­r­i­al chiefly from the Horn book mag­a­zine. Boston: Horn Book, 1975. Print.




A Few Favorite Fossils

by The Bookologist

Here at the mag­a­zine we’ve been look­ing at a lot of pale­on­tol­ogy late­ly, and we thought we’d share a few of the down­right gor­geous or just plain cool fos­sils that sneaked onto our com­put­ers as we pre­pared this mon­th’s issue. After all, who’s not a pushover for a pret­ty rock?


Pho­to Cred­its
Ichthyosaur and Trilo­bite: Nat­ur­al His­to­ry Muse­um of Great Britain
Argen­tin­ian “Ter­ror Bird”: M. Taglioret­ti and F. Scaglia.
Chi­nese Fux­i­an­huia pro­ten­sa with brain: Xiaoya Ma
Aus­tralian stro­ma­to­lite: Shanan Peters/University of Wis­con­sin-Madi­son
Cana­di­an Arc­tic Fisha­pod: Ted Daeschler
Antarc­tic Sea Lil­lies: Shanan Peters/University of Wis­con­sin-Madi­son
South African hand bones: L.Berger — Uni­ver­si­ty of Wit­wa­ter­srand
All oth­er pho­tos cour­tesy Wiki­me­dia commons.


The Curious Child: writing and books

Catherine, Called Birdy

by Vic­ki Palmquist

After read­ing Cather­ine, Called Birdy, read­ers will won­der about Edward, Birdy’s broth­er, and the books he was scrib­ing at the monastery. In what type of book did Birdy keep her jour­nal? Who taught her to write? Did she write in the same fan­cy script that her broth­er did at the monastery?

Birdy gives the read­er clues about her jour­nal: “The skins are my father’s, left over from the house­hold accounts, and the ink also. The writ­ing I learned of my broth­er Edward, but the words are my own.”

The author, Karen Cush­man, describes the scrip­to­ri­um in the monastery for us, “Edward works in Par­adise. Beyond the gar­den, near the chapel, is a room as large as our barn and near as cold. Shelves lin­ing the wall hold books and scrolls, some chained down as if they were pre­cious relics or wild beasts. In three rows sit fif­teen desks, fee­bly lit by can­dles, and fif­teen monks sit curled over them, their noses pressed almost to the desk­tops. Each monk holds in one hand his pen and in the oth­er a sharp knife for scratch­ing out mis­takes. On the desks are pens and quills of all sizes, pots of ink black or col­ored, pow­der for dry­ing, and knives for sharpening.”

Cather­ine, Called Birdy is set in 1290 – 91 AD, a time when writ­ing meth­ods and scripts were chang­ing a great deal. Life was mov­ing from the medieval peri­od to the Renais­sance, although no one alive then would have known that or giv­en those names to their lives. In the Author’s Note, Ms. Cush­man writes, “Most peo­ple did not know what cen­tu­ry it was, much less what year.”

It’s hard for us to think of the effort it took to cre­ate one book, the hours and hours of painstak­ing draw­ing of let­ters, which not only had to be read­able but had to sat­is­fy the fash­ions of the day, the stan­dards for art and beau­ty that defined pen­man­ship in that era.

This was approx­i­mate­ly 200 years before the first book would be mechan­i­cal­ly print­ed in England.

In the year in which Cather­ine, Called Birdy is set, the fash­ion­able cal­lig­ra­ph­er used the pen­strokes of Tex­tu­ra Quadra­ta, so called because its rhyth­mic ver­ti­cal strokes cre­at­ed a tex­ture on the paper … and was very dif­fi­cult to read. There are many mod­ern sam­ples of this style on The Pen­sive Pen, a blog about cal­lig­ra­phy by Jamin Brown.

gothic textura quadrata

The Goth­ic man­u­scripts … used the same pen stroke for many let­ters, and thus a word like “min­i­mum,” with its unre­lieved parade of ver­ti­cal strokes, was almost impos­si­ble to read.” The Smith­son­ian Book of Books by Michael Olmert, Smith­son­ian Books, 1992, pg 75.


Here is an excel­lent video of a scribe, with a quill pen, cre­at­ing let­ters in the Tex­tu­ra Quadra­ta or Black­let­ter style. Here are more sam­ples.

In the class­room, you might talk about the dif­fer­ences between the way we write today and the time and care it is tak­ing for the scribe in the video to write the alphabet.

Enjoy this sam­ple page of cal­lig­ra­phy from John Stevens Design, a mas­ter cal­lig­ra­ph­er whose doc­u­ments are cre­at­ed for spe­cial occa­sions as works of art.

Today, we open up our word pro­cess­ing pro­gram and scroll through the choice of fonts, mak­ing selec­tions based on our mood or the mes­sage we’re hop­ing to con­vey. We may choose Fritz Quadra­ta or Caslon or Brush Script, most like­ly being unaware of the deep his­to­ry behind each of these fonts. Today, Goth­ic Tex­tu­ra Quadra­ta is a font one can pur­chase for $12 online. Com­pare this to the art and care and skill of the scribe cre­at­ing a page (with­out ben­e­fit of spellcheck or the delete key) to sat­is­fy a rich patron who want­ed a book in their house and paid for it to be handwritten.

 “In the ear­ly mid­dle ages lit­er­a­cy was viewed with some sus­pi­cion; actions def­i­nite­ly spoke loud­er than words, espe­cial­ly writ­ten words. These atti­tudes changed as the mid­dle ages pro­gressed; gov­ern­ment became more depen­dent on records, and cor­re­spond­ing­ly the rest of soci­ety became increas­ing­ly aware that mem­o­ries were not enough. It became impor­tant to have writ­ten proof of own­er­ship or events. Latin was the lan­guage of gov­ern­ment and offi­cial busi­ness, but by the four­teenth cen­tu­ry an increas­ing amount of writ­ing was being con­duct­ed in the ver­nac­u­lar.” A Medieval Book of Sea­sons, by Marie Collins and Vir­ginia Davis, Harper­Collins, 1992, pgs 25 – 26.

textura quadrata

From about 1150, how­ev­er, all this began to change. Pro­fes­sion­al sec­u­lar scribes and illu­mi­na­tors start­ed to take over the book busi­ness. There is tan­ta­liz­ing evi­dence from the mid-12th cen­tu­ry of trav­el­ing crafts­man who must have hired them­selves out to those who want­ed man­u­scripts made.” The Smith­son­ian Book of Books by Michael Olmert, Smith­son­ian Books, 1992, pg 10.

If a copy­ist made a mis­take he put a series of fine dots under the offend­ing word and then con­tin­ued with his text. This avoid­ed the cre­ation of a hor­rif­ic black cross-out, which would spoil the nor­mal den­si­ty of the let­ters on the page. Mis­takes com­mon­ly occurred when the scribe was inter­rupt­ed and then cast his eye for­ward or back­ward to a word sim­i­lar to the one he had just fin­ished. Christo­pher de Hamel, an expert in medieval man­u­scripts, says this usu­al­ly hap­pened when the scribe lift­ed his pen from the page for more ink (scribes tried to do a sin­gle sen­tence with each refill.) The Smith­son­ian Book of Books by Michael Olmert, Smith­son­ian Books, 1992, pg 74.

 “Monas­tic scribes engaged in a vari­ety of jobs. They pre­pared offi­cial doc­u­ments, copied or recopied ancient or con­tem­po­rary texts, pro­duced missales for use in church or books of hours for rich patrons. Such lengthy, metic­u­lous work was obvi­ous­ly a strain on the eyes, o it is not sur­pris­ing that the first glass­es were worn by monks. Man­u­scripts could be con­sult­ed in the library, but to pre­vent their being pur­loined by too indi­vid­u­al­is­tic monks they were some­times changed to the shelves, as at Her­ford. This explains why in some monas­ter­ies copy­ists either worked in the library or in a scrip­to­ri­um pro­vid­ed for com­pil­ing and copy­ing texts.” Life in the Mid­dle Ages, by Robert Delort, Edi­ta Lau­sanne, 1972.

Mov­able type is cred­it­ed to Bi Sheng, who lived in Bian­i­lang dur­ing the North­ern Song Dynasty. Some­where between 1045 and 1058, he fash­ioned “3000 of the most com­mon let­ters” out of clay, baked them in a kiln, and used them to print pages of type.

In 1234, Kore­an print­ers invent­ed met­al move­able type, which was more durable, and they print­ed the “old­est extant met­al print­ed book” in 1377.” Be sure to take a look at the UNESCO Mem­o­ry of the World for more details about this mile­stone that changed the world forever.

Here’s a fact that many of us learned in school: Johannes Guten­berg pub­lished the 42-line Chris­t­ian Bible in 1455. His accom­plish­ment was to invent a screw-type press that could use mov­able type to print pages quickly.

The first book to be print­ed in Eng­land was William Caxton’s edi­tion of Sir Thomas Malory’s Le Morte d’Arthur in 1484. Cax­ton pub­lished “about 100 books, a num­ber of which will live for­ev­er. The Can­ter­bury Tales (1476−1478) was near­ly a cen­tu­ry old when Cax­ton print­ed them (Chaucer died in 1300). He prob­a­bly print­ed them not because they were “lit­er­a­ture” but because they con­tained pop­u­lar, appeal­ing sto­ries. Cax­ton was a busi­ness­man. Enter­tain­ment was more impor­tant to him than eru­di­tion.” The Smith­son­ian Book of Books by Michael Olmert, Smith­son­ian Books, 1992.

And what hap­pened to those books? Did Birdy’s house have a shelf with books on it, script writ­ten by Edward? Here’s a pub­lic library 400 years lat­er at Wim­borne Min­ster in England.

Sit­u­at­ed with­in the Min­ster, this was one of Britain’s first pub­lic libraries, estab­lished in 1686 in the room pre­vi­ous­ly the Trea­sury, which housed the wealth of the Min­ster until it was con­fis­cat­ed by Hen­ry VIII.

Among the ear­li­est col­lec­tions of the library, which we see here, were donat­ed by Rev. William Stone on con­di­tion that the books were chained to the shelves — he wished that his items be avail­able not only to the cler­gy but also to ‘the bet­ter class of per­son in Wim­borne.’  He pro­vid­ed mon­ey for the chains and also stip­u­lat­ed that the exist­ing works also be chained, lest they be pil­fered by the less scrupulous. 

Wimborne Minster public library


Stone’s col­lec­tion is entire­ly eccle­si­as­ti­cal, but lat­er col­lec­tions have a vari­ety of sub­jects, from archi­tec­ture to wine press­ing and even how to kill an elephant.

These are Vic­to­ri­an chains but there are two orig­i­nals remain­ing. Because the chains are attached to the edges of the book cov­ers, rather than the spines which would become eas­i­ly dam­aged, the books face inwards.” From Geo­graph: Wim­borne Min­ster, Dorset, Great Britain.


Art of Calligraphy

Alpha­bet Goth­ique, Tex­tu­ra Quadra­ta. Ger­ard Caye. YouTube video.

Art of Cal­lig­ra­phy: a Prac­ti­cal Guide to the Skills and Tech­niques. David Har­ri­son. DK Books, 1995.

Cather­ine, Called Birdy. Karen Cush­man. Clar­i­on Books, 1994.

Chi­na Culture.org, “Bi Sheng.”

Friend­ly Korea, my friend’s coun­try. “The Great­est Inven­tion, Mov­able Met­al Type Print­ing and Jikji.”

Geo­graph website.

Life in the Mid­dle Ages. Robert Delort. Edi­ta Lau­sanne, 1972.

Mal­o­ry Project. Fac­sim­i­le ver­sion of William Cax­ton’s 1485 edi­tion of Le Morte d’Arthur.

Medieval Book of Sea­sons. Marie Collins and Vir­ginia Davis. Harper­Collins, 1992.

Mem­o­ry of the World. Unit­ed Nations Edu­ca­tion­al, Sci­en­tif­ic, and Cul­tur­al Organization. 

Ore­gon State Uni­ver­si­ty Libraries, Spe­cial Col­lec­tions & Archives Research Cen­ter. “Trea­sures from the McDon­ald Col­lec­tion, the Incun­able Era, the Guten­berg Press.” 

Pen­sive Pen, a blog about cal­lig­ra­phy. Jamin Brown.

Smith­son­ian Book of Books. Michael Olmert. Smith­son­ian Books, 1992.


Two Birds from the Same Egg with Poetry PLUS!

(edi­tor’s note:  In hon­or of Nation­al Poet­ry Month, we asked Sylvia Vardell and Janet  Wong, authors of  the The Poet­ry Fri­day series for a quick exam­ple of inte­grat­ing poet­ry into the classroom. )

by Sylvia Vardell and Janet Wong

PFA For CelebrationsWe are pressed for time, so we mul­ti­task. You might be eat­ing break­fast while you’re read­ing Bookol­o­gy, or doing laun­dry, or both. “Killing two birds with one stone” or “hatch­ing two birds from the same egg” — inte­grat­ed teach­ing — is the best way to fit every­thing in, espe­cial­ly in the K‑5 classroom.

In anoth­er post here at Bookol­o­gy, Melis­sa Stew­art talked about “facts-plus” books that present facts and explain them. We’d like to sug­gest that our books in The Poet­ry Fri­day Anthol­o­gy series are “Poet­ry PLUS”; we present poems that tie into the Com­mon Core State Stan­dards (CCSS), Next Gen­er­a­tion Sci­ence Stan­dards (NGSS), social stud­ies stan­dards, and state stan­dards such as the Texas TEKS — and we show you how to teach these poems, too.

For exam­ple, here’s one of the 218 poems in The Poet­ry Fri­day Anthol­o­gy for Sci­ence (K‑5 Teacher Edi­tion), with its accom­pa­ny­ing “Take 5!” mini-les­son. The NGSS and most state stan­dards for sci­ence require ele­men­tary stu­dents to under­stand weath­er and cli­mate and be able to dis­tin­guish between the two — some­thing that this poem teach­es in a way that will appeal to poet­ry lovers (who are hes­i­tant about sci­ence) and also to bud­ding sci­en­tists (who are unsure of poetry).


Or here’s an exam­ple that’s per­fect for today, April 7th — which hap­pens to be Met­ric Sys­tem Day. Using “Just Weight” by Hei­di Bee Roe­mer from The Poet­ry Fri­day Anthol­o­gy for Cel­e­bra­tions, you can com­bine a lan­guage arts les­son with three oth­er con­tent areas in just five minutes:

  • sci­ence (learn­ing about hippos)
  • math (doing a tons to kilos conversion)
  • social stud­ies (geog­ra­phy; iden­ti­fy­ing the three coun­tries that have not adopt­ed the met­ric sys­tem: the U.S., Liberia, and Myanmar)


 We hope that our books — and the Take 5! approach to shar­ing any poem — will help teach­ers find more time to share poet­ry, this month and all year long!



Teaching the Future

by Rob Reid

Animal Shenanigans

Ani­mal Shenani­gans, Rob Rei­d’s lat­est resource book for teach­ers, par­ents, and librarians.

I am for­tu­nate to teach three sec­tions of children’s lit­er­a­ture each semes­ter to future ele­men­tary teach­ers, future spe­cial edu­ca­tion teach­ers, and future librar­i­ans. It’s tru­ly a fun gig. I was asked by the Bookol­o­gy folks to share those books and top­ics I teach to these bud­ding professionals.

I open each semes­ter by intro­duc­ing myself and read­ing my cur­rent favorite inter­ac­tive pic­ture book. The last few years, it has been Press Here by Hervé Tul­let and the stu­dents are delight­ed to know such a book like this exists. I then ask them to tell me what comes to mind when I say, “Children’s Books.” I write their respons­es on the board and…the same titles appear year after year. Titles from their school years: Arthur, Amelia Bedelia, Mag­ic Tree­house, Har­ry Pot­ter, Dr. Seuss — the usu­al sus­pects. All good choic­es but no sur­pris­es and noth­ing recent­ly pub­lished. That’s my job then for the next 15 weeks: com­bine his­to­ry of children’s lit­er­a­ture with the best of the new­er stuff, so they can share those with kids down the road.

Next, we look at cur­rent trends in children’s pub­lish­ing: trends I pick up from Pub­lish­ers Week­ly, the Coöper­a­tive Children’s Book Cen­ter, the Amer­i­can Library Asso­ci­a­tion, and my own obser­va­tions. We also look at the cur­rent NY Times best­seller lists for pic­ture books, mid­dle grade books, and series. I read a few of those best­selling pic­ture books to the class as well as selec­tions of the chap­ter books. (I read aloud children’s books to my col­lege stu­dents pret­ty much every class session.)

I con­trast what sells with what wins the numer­ous awards: quan­ti­ty vs. qual­i­ty (and luck­i­ly, the two go togeth­er with many titles) and how kids need to be exposed to all. Over the semes­ter, my stu­dents learn what the fol­low­ing awards are for, who are the most recent win­ners, and many of the notable past win­ners: New­bery (and I share my own expe­ri­ence being on that com­mit­tee), Calde­cott, Geisel, Coret­ta Scott King, Pura Bel­pré, Amer­i­can Indi­an Youth Lit­er­a­ture, Scott O’Dell, Sib­ert, Orbis Pic­tus, and the Schnei­der Fam­i­ly Award.

Sibk_wonder_140nce that last award orig­i­nat­ed at the Uni­ver­si­ty of Wis­con­sin-Eau Claire, where I teach, and because I have many spe­cial edu­ca­tion stu­dents, we put spe­cial empha­sis on this award that rec­og­nizes por­tray­als of peo­ple with dis­abil­i­ties. As a class, we all read Won­der by R.J. Pala­cio (before that it was Rules by Cyn­thia Lord) and I will also be adding El Deafo by Cece Bell this upcom­ing year as a required read to rep­re­sent graph­ic nov­els (I have been using the first Baby­mouse and the first Lunch Lady as exam­ples of ele­men­tary school graph­ic novels).

The oth­er required read is Love That Dog, and I intro­duce the oth­er works of Sharon Creech and Wal­ter Dean Myers (who is a fic­tion­al­ized char­ac­ter of him­self in the book). We look at dozens of poet­ry books not writ­ten by Shel Sil­ver­stein (and I have some good Sil­ver­stein anec­dotes to share) and learn ways to make poet­ry fun for kids.

Out of My MindStu­dents pick an elec­tive chap­ter book from a list I pro­vide (which includes Roll of Thun­der Hear My Cry, Out of My Mind, Joey Pigza Swal­lowed the Key, Al Capone Does My Shirts, Cora­line, Tale of Des­pereaux, Princess Acad­e­my, Eli­jah of Bux­ton, and sev­er­al more) and they cre­ate a lit­er­a­ture activ­i­ty guide to go with their novel.

Stu­dents draw the name of a children’s illus­tra­tor and put togeth­er a Pow­er­Point to share with the class what they learned about the var­i­ous artis­tic ele­ments present in the pic­ture books.

We also look at the time­line of diver­si­ty in children’s lit­er­a­ture, tra­di­tion­al folk­lore from around the world, fan­ta­sy and sci­ence fic­tion, con­tro­ver­sial books, infor­ma­tion­al books and biogra­phies, easy read­ers and bridge books, real­is­tic fic­tion, his­tor­i­cal fic­tion, and Min­neso­ta and Wis­con­sin book cre­ators (since most of my stu­dents are from these two states and we have so many tal­ent­ed, pub­lished, award-win­ning authors and illus­tra­tors here).

Each stu­dent also has to tell an oral sto­ry to the class based on a folk­tale. They are sent to the 398 sec­tion of the library to look through both the pic­ture book edi­tions and antholo­gies of folk­tales, learn one, and share it with­out notes.

We fin­ish the semes­ter with com­pet­i­tive rounds of Kid­die Lit Jeop­ardy, they fill out their stu­dent eval­u­a­tions that all read “This was a lot of work!” and I send them off to explore the remain­ing 99% of the won­der­ful children’s books we did­n’t have time to cov­er in class.