The Elephant and Piggie books are a series of easy-readers. Easy-readers are written for kids who are just making the transition to reading on their own, so they generally contain very simple text. I rarely enjoy reading fiction easy-readers, and thus have a tendency to avoid doing so. In an interview with Mo Willems, the author, he discussed how easy-readers are known in the publishing world as “hard-writers” because it so challenging to write a compelling story with just a few easy words. (Green Eggs and Ham by Dr. Seuss was one of the first books to do this.)
With Elephant and Piggie, Willems nails the genre. Let’s Go For a Drive is one of my favorites in the 23 book series. I shared it with my kindergartners and it quickly became a magical interactive book with the classes of children that listened to it read aloud. Only a few pages in and everyone was chanting along.
“We need umbrellas!”
“I have umbrellas!”
“Get those umbrellas!”
The simple illustrations are nevertheless enchanting, with so much emotion shining through Elephant and Piggie’s faces. My 4 year old is completely hooked on these books, partly because he enjoys looking for the pigeon in the end pages, and mostly because the books are simply wonderful. Another favorite title in the series is Waiting Is Not Easy, which is great especially around the holidays when kids are often impatient.
I think Mo Willems is a genius, and tend to love everything he does.
The month of April is one of my favorites in the library because it is National Poetry Month, so I get the lucky job of teaching and sharing poetry with my students. If I had to pick one go-to book to use for poetry month it would be If Not For the Cat by Jack Prelutsky. This is not the normal silly Prelutsky fare, instead, it is a collection of animal haikus that are perfect to use with groups of students because, when read aloud, they turn into challenging riddles. If you are looking to engage a group of kids, this book wins every time. Sometimes I even make it a competition between classes to see which class solves more. If you’ve ever tried to write your own haiku poetry you know how difficult it can be to make the syllables work. This leads to precise language and the vocabulary in this book is both challenging and stunning. (undulate, nasturtium, extinguishes…) I prefer to use this book with our intermediate students but it would work in any grade. A parent volunteer who was in the library on a day that I shared it told me she thought it would be perfect in a college biology class! Whether you choose to share it with one child or with many, this book is a true poetry gem.
How lucky are we that “Miss Moore Thought Otherwise!” This delightful biography of Anne Carroll Moore tells the story of the transformation of libraries as places for adults and for silence, to the libraries of today where all of us, children included, are welcome to visit, tell stories, find books, and connect with each other. In the end notes, the author acknowledges that Miss Moore was not alone in her quest, but that she had wide-ranging influence in developing children’s libraries. I find her story and the history fascinating.
I also enjoyed the colorful acrylic illustrations, especially the one on the back cover of Miss Moore standing beside the New York Public Library lion statue.
My seven year old daughter enjoyed this book as well. She had a lot of questions in the beginning, questions about a world where libraries were only available for adults, mostly men and the people who had money to spend on memberships. I am grateful to Anne Carroll Moore and the other trailblazers who changed our world and made libraries into places that we love today. I plan to share her story!
Kate DiCamillo is a rock star. This was her first published novel. It is a Newbery Honor winner and a New York Times best seller, but mostly it is FANTASTIC. It has been made into a movie (with Dave Matthews portraying one of her characters… DAVE MATTHEWS!) and in my opinion, it is just about one of the best books ever. And just in case you’re worried, nothing bad happens to the dog.
The Crossover is novel-in-verse perfection. I am a big fan of novels in verse, and this one is stellar. This book is everything; energizing rhythm and striking word choice paired with endearing characters. I loved it.
Twelve year old Josh Bell and his twin brother Jordan play basketball. This story, told from the point of view of Josh, chronicles a year in their life on the court, at school, and with their family. Twelve year old boys have a lot to deal with, and this book tackles some tough issues involved in growing up. It is sure to be a hit with boys everywhere, and girls will enjoy it too. Do you know a reluctant reader? Leave this out somewhere. See where it goes.
The poetry aspect of this book means there is little text on each page, and it is a quick read. (The striking vocabulary and imagery make it academically worthwhile, but we don’t need to tell kids that.) If you pick this up you will likely finish it in one sitting. I made myself stop because I didn’t want it to end!
You don’t have to take my word for it. This book won the 2015 Coretta Scott King and Newbery awards. Seriously, you must read this book. And then be sure to find a kid to share it with.