Today is the big 10 for 10 Picture Book Event, and I've been thinking very hard about which picture books would make my top 10 list. This was as difficult task as I thought it would be!!! As a 5th grade teacher, there are many picture books I've accumulated for many reasons. So, when I went into my classroom and just sat near the bookshelves with picture books, I had to decide what the criteria would be for making the Top 10 list.
Here is what I came up with: I love every picture book in our classroom, but that alone can't get a book to a Top 10 list. I finally decided that to make the Top 10, the picture book had to be used multiple times in our classroom, using it as a mentor text because it is fabulous for multiple reasons.
With that criteria in mind, I got down to 25 books, and from 25, I finally managed to winnow it down to 10 (it wasn't easy at all!):
1) Saturdays and Teacakes by Lester Laminack -- if I had to point to the one book that I pull out the most often to use with my students, it would be this beautifully illustrated story. It is a simple story from a much more simple time. However, there is nothing simple about the language; the word choice in this story is beautiful.
2) 14 Cows for America by Carmen Agra Deedy and illustrated by Thomas Gonzalez - This is a book I discovered from the Cybils nonfiction picture book category. Simple, but beautiful text. True story. Gorgeous pictures. A book that had to make the Top 10.
3) Fly Away Home by Eve Bunting and illustrated by Ronald Himler - I will frequently say that I love a book for its beautiful language and this book is no exception. The comparison of the main character's life to the bird caught in the airport terminal makes this one reason I read this book each year. The other reason I love this book so much is because of the clear, but sensitive way it deals with the very real issue of homelessness.
4) Night Tree by Eve Bunting and illustrated by Ted Rand - This book is 19 years old, and I love the story each time I read it. Eve Bunting is absolutely one of my favorite picture book authors.
5) When I Was Young in the Mountain by Cynthia Rylant and illustrated by Diane Goode -- Yes, it won a Caldecott Honor back in its day, but that's not why it made my list. When I Was Young in the Mountains tells a story that has a lyrical refrain... "When I was young in the mountain..." I never get tired of that phrase. This story evokes memories for all students; this is a story to which they can relate.
6) The Other Side by Jacqueline Woodson and illustrated by E. B. Lewis -- what I can I say about this book? It tells an amazing story in a poetic way. The not-so-subtle symbol of the fence and each side allows for rich conversation. I love this book!!
7) Nothing Ever Happens on 90th Street by Roni Schotter and illustrated by Kyrsten Brooker - this is a perfect book to share with my students in writing workshop at the beginning of the year. It does a great job of pointing how that in fact there is always something happening everywhere. A colleagure actually introduced this book to me and I am so grateful. After reading this aloud together, we spend a lot of time "noticing" all the things that go on around us at our school. Great writer's notebook activity!!
8) Snowflake Bentley by Jacqueline Briggs Martin and illustrated by Mary Azarian -- This might have been the very first nonfiction story I fell in love with as a teacher. The topic is fascinating, the word choice is excellent, and the set-up of the book with more facts on the outside border make this a true gem! This is a nonfiction picture book that comes out year after year.
9) Mermaid Queen by Shana Corey and illustrated by Edwin Fotheringham -- This is another beautifully illustrated book that I discovered while serving on the Cybils nonfiction picture book panel this past year. I fell in the love with the wonderful colors and water designs built into the illustrations. The language and word choice make for great mentor text for my 5th grade writers. In addition, this is a great example of literary nonfiction for writers.
10) My Great-Aunt Arizona by Gloria Houston and illustrated by Susan Condie Lamb -- A great story about a smart, interesting female over the span of her lifetime. I love this character, and I love the rich discussions my students have when talking about character traits as they apply to the narrator's Great-aunt Arizona. I've had this book for years, and I never tire of it.
As difficult as choosing just 10 books was, it was fun for me to see how much I still love and use some classics by Gloria Houston, Eve Bunting, and Cynthia Rylant. I was also pleased to see that some gorgeously done nonfiction made my list as well.
I'm sure as I read others' lists today, I'll smack myself on the side of the head and wonder how I could have forgotten the books they mention. :) But as I reread my list, I know that all of these books are wonderful and I will use them many times this year. This is one of those activities that there really are no wrong answers -- my favorite kind!!
Thanks to Cathy and Mandy for hosting this fun, thought-provoking, difficult, enlightening event!!