Mandy Robek and Cathy Mere have been curating a group called Picture Book 10 for 10 every August for the past six years. Essentially, this is an opportunity for educators to share and discuss “must have” books for classroom libraries. It’s a fantastic event, which I look forward to each year since I get to share some of my favorites and learn about new titles from #pb10for10 participants.
I wanted to create a thematic list of books this year. Lisa Keeler’s recent post — “Where Have All the Narratives Gone?” — inspired my thinking about this year’s list. In her post, Lisa wrote:
Perhaps writing about the small moments of their lives, and creating realistic story lines with relatable characters in fiction pieces is challenging for our students because so much of what they see and read is not like that. When I think about the “hot” books my students read and share, they are mostly fantasy series. And when I see what is in the theaters, well, it is pretty similar. I think students today are unfamiliar, perhaps even uncomfortable with the structure, rhythm and feel of stories of ordinary moments brought to life beautifully on the page.
Lisa’s post made me realize many children kids aren’t getting enough exposure to realistic stories where they see themselves reflected on the page. Therefore, I wanted to curate a list of ten picture books, all of which have been or will be released this year, that will help kids see their own lives reflected in a book. By choosing to share one or more of these books in your classroom, you will provide your students with an opportunity to know they aren’t alone AND that they can write a personal narrative on a similar topic.
Because moving to a new country is challenging, share A Piece of Home by Jeri Watts and Hyewon Yum (Candlewick).
Publisher’s Summary: When Hee Jun’s family moves from Korea to West Virginia, he struggles to adjust to his new home. His eyes are not big and round like his classmates’, and he can’t understand anything the teacher says, even when she speaks s-l-o-w-l-y and loudly at him. As he lies in bed at night, the sky seems smaller and darker. But little by little Hee Jun begins to learn English words and make friends on the playground. And one day he is invited to a classmate’s house, where he sees a flower he knows from his garden in Korea — mugunghwa, or rose of Sharon, as his friend tells him — and Hee Jun is happy to bring a shoot to his grandmother to plant a “piece of home” in their new garden. Lyrical prose and lovely illustrations combine in a gentle, realistic story about finding connections in an unfamiliar world.
Because it’s the little things in life that bring us the most happiness, share All My Treasures: A Book of Joy by Jo Witek and Christine Roussey (Abrams).
Publisher’s Summary: When a girl receives a beautiful porcelain box from her grandmother, she immediately wants something special to put inside it. But what could it be? What does she love best? She loves jumping in puddles on rainy days, blowing bubbles in the park, and watching her little sister’s first steps. As it turns out, life’s most precious treasures cannot be contained in a box! With a gentle message about the immateriality of happiness, this story reminds us to take pleasure in everyday moments. The book is beautifully packaged with a sparkly die-cut star on the cover, and flaps throughout reveal hidden surprises.
Because everyone has been teased about looking different, share Bob the Artist by Marion Deuchars (Laurence King Publishing).
Publisher’s Summary: Bob the bird is just like all his friends, apart from his skinny legs. When Bob is teased, he decides to try and change himself to fit in. But little does he know where all his efforts will lead him…
An affirming picture book for age 3+ about the power of art and of being confident enough to be yourself.
Because we all have fears to overcome, share Can I Tell You a Secret by Anna Kang and Christopher Weyant (Harper).
Publisher’s Summary: From the author-illustrator team of You Are (Not) Small, winner of the 2015 Theodor Seuss Geisel Award, comes an adorable picture book featuring Monty. He’s a little frog with a BIG secret that he’s ready to share. Monty learns how to face his fears with some help from his new friend—YOU!
Because stage freight is a real thing, share Jack’s Worry by Sam Zuppardi (Candlewick).
Publisher’s Summary: Jack loves playing the trumpet, and for weeks he’s been looking forward to taking part in his first concert. But on the morning of the big day, Jack finds he has a Worry. And his Worry starts to grow. Even when Jack’s mother calls him for a special breakfast, even when he hides under the bed or runs around the yard, his Worry follows him. Suddenly, when it’s almost time to leave for the concert, Jack finds it’s all too much. For anyone who’s ever been afraid of failing at something new, this book offers just what’s needed to shrink a Worry down to size.
Because reading doesn’t come easy for many kids, share Madeline Finn and the Library Dog by Lisa Papp (Peachtree Publishers).
Publisher’s Summary: Madeline Finn DOES NOT like to read.
Not even the menu on the ice cream truck.
But Madeline Finn DOES want a gold star from her teacher.
Stars are for good readers.
Stars are for understanding words.
And saying them out loud.
Fortunately, Madeline Finn meets Bonnie, a library dog. Reading out loud to Bonnie isn’t so bad. When Madeline Finn gets stuck, Bonnie doesn’t mind. Madeline Finn can pet her until she figures the word out.
As it turns out, it’s fun to read when you’re not afraid of making mistakes. Bonnie teaches Madeline Finn that it’s okay to go slow. And to keep trying. Just like the sticker says.
Because it takes time and practice to get good at something new, share More-igami by Dori Kleber and G. Brian Karas (Candlewick).
Publisher’s Summary: Joey loves things that fold: maps, beds, accordions, you name it. When a visiting mother of a classmate turns a plain piece of paper into a beautiful origami crane, his eyes pop. Maybe he can learn origami, too. It’s going to take practice — on his homework, the newspaper, the thirty-eight dollars in his mother’s purse . . . Enough! No more folding! But how can Joey become an origami master if he’s not allowed to practice? Is there anywhere that he can hone the skill that makes him happy — and maybe even make a new friend while he’s at it?
Because nearly everyone has lost a beloved stuffed animal, share Sam and Jump by Jennifer K. Mann (Candlewick).
Publisher’s Summary: Sam and his stuffed bunny, Jump, are best friends, and they do everything together. One day, on a trip to the beach, Sam meets Thomas. Sam and Thomas play together all day and promise to do the same the next day. But when Sam gets home he realizes Jump is still at the beach! It’s too late and too dark to go find him, and Sam worries all night. What if Jump is nowhere to be found? Can Sam brave the world without his best friend? Little ones with their own cherished toys will be drawn to this reassuring story about losing something dear only to gain something even better.
Because grandparents age and it is hard to watch, share What a Beautiful Morning by Arthur A. Levine and Katie Kath (Running Press).
Publisher’s Summary: Every morning is beautiful when Noah visits his Grandparents. When Grandpa and Noah wake up, they take off singing and hardly stop: walking the dog, splashing through puddles, and eating French toast with cinnamon.
But one summer Grandpa seems to have forgotten how to do the things they love. Does he even know who Noah is?
Grandma steps in energetically, filling in as best she can. But it is Noah who finds the way back to something he can share with Grandpa. Something musical. Something that makes the morning beautiful again.
This is a story about how love helps us find even what we think is lost.
Because some families live in two different homes where the expectations aren’t always the same, share When I am with Dad by Kimball Crossley and Katie Gamb (Two Little Birds).
Publisher’s Summary: Elizabeth is a girl who likes things just so. When she spends the day with Dad, sometimes things are a little bit different. She and her little sister, Lulu, take us through a day with Dad; and while everything may not be to Elizabeth’s taste, it’s about being with the person who loves you more than anything in the world. Learning to accept each other’s differences is all part of being in a family!
It is my sincere hope that having these books in your classroom will help kids see themselves reflected on the page. When children hear stories about characters who experience the same things they’ve gone through or are experiencing, then it gives them permission to write their own stories about something similar.
Several publishing houses are giving away one copy of each book listed above. Many thanks to Abrams, Candlewick Press, HarperCollins, Laurence King, Peachtree Publishers, Running Press, and Two Little Birds for donating a copy for TWT readers. For a chance to win this copy of one of the titles above, please leave a comment about this post by Wednesday, August 17th at 11:59 p.m. EDT. I’ll use a random number generator to pick the winners, whose names I will announce at the bottom of this post, by Friday, August 19th. NOTES: I will draw the winners’ names and assign the books at random unless you state, in your comment, which books you’re most interested in using in your classroom and why. Preference will be given to those (whose names are chosen) who mention specific titles in their comments. Some publishers only ship books to people in the United States, while others will ship worldwide. Please leave your geographic location, if you do NOT live in the United States and/or have a U.S. mailing address, when you leave a comment. Listing the name of the book does not guarantee you’ll win a copy of it if your name is one of the ten chosen since multiple people might request the same book(s).
If you are the winner of the book, I will email you with the subject line of TWO WRITING TEACHERS – PB10FOR10 2016. Please respond to my e-mail with your mailing address within five days of receipt. Unfortunately, a new winner will be chosen if a response isn’t received within five days of the giveaway announcement.
Comments are now closed. Thank you to everyone who left a comment on this blog post. Here are the winners of each book:
- A Piece of Home – shawndastories
- All My Treasures: A Book of Joy – Michelle Elizondo
- Bob the Artist – tflander2015
- Can I Tell You a Secret – Susie Kurstin
- Jack’s Worry – Peggy Beach
- Madeline Finn and the Library Dog – Lisa Gerin
- More-igami – mbhmaine
- Sam and Jump – Stefanie
- What a Beautiful Morning – Marcia Balkin
- When I am with Dad – Stacey Hicklin
I am a literacy consultant who has spent over a decade working with teachers to improve the teaching of writing in their classrooms. While I work with teachers and students in grade K-6, I'm a former fourth and fifth-grade teacher so I have a passion for working with upper elementary students.
I'm the author of Craft Moves (Stenhouse Publishers, 2016) and the co-author of Jump Into Writing (Zaner-Bloser, 2021), Welcome to Writing Workshop (Stenhouse Publishers, 2019), and Day By Day (Stenhouse, 2010).