Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Top Ten Picture Books

If you were stranded on an island and had to teach, what 10 picture books would you hope to have in your bag? 
This is the question that Cathy at Reflect and Refine: Building a Learning Community asked via Twitter.  What a great question to ponder for the beginning of the year!  Here are my choices.

This is a sweet, sweet little book that reminds us how easy it is to do something nice for someone.  The book begins with Mary noticing some delicious looking blueberries on her way home from school. She picks them and leaves them anonymously on Mrs. Bishop's front step. Mrs. Bishop is so tickled that she makes muffins and gives them out to five people. Those muffins made each of those folks feel so happy that they did something extra nice for people in their lives-- mostly strangers. You are probably getting the picture -- each person "pays it forward" and does something special for five people. The COOLEST thing about this book is that at the end the math is shown-- it turns out that if this really happened, over 6 BILLION people would be affected. Chill bumps!
 Those Shoes by Maribeth Boelts
All Jeremy wants is a pair of those shoes, the ones everyone at school seems to be wearing. But times are tight, and Grandma says he needs winter boots and that is what they have money to buy.   He so desperately wants "those shoes" that he is willing to use his own money to buy a pair that don't even fit properly.  The lesson he learns touches the heart.

Pete the Cat by Eric Litwin
Pete the Cat goes walking down the street wearing his brand-new white shoes. Along the way, he steps in piles of strawberries, blueberries, and other big messes. Pete has a great attitude, though, and keeps movin' and groovin' and singing his song . . . because it's all good.

Scaredy Squirrel by Melanie Watt
Scaredy Squirrel by Melanie Watts Scaredy Squirrel is afraid of everything!  He spends his days in his cozy tree, armed with a plan for any type of emergency-- from killer bees to sharks. Good thing he has an emergency kit, because one day he falls out of his tree!  The results are surprising!  This book is great to read at the beginnning of school; it leads to a great conversation about fears.  It is also good for teaching different types of organization in writing. 

Ish by Peter Reynolds
When Ramon's brother laughs at his pictures, he gets discouraged.  His sister, however, looks at things differently.  The picture of the vase looks "vase-ish."  His picture of the tree looks "tree-ish."  I love this book because it reminds us all that our creative attempts aren't always going to be perfect, but if we are "perfect-ish," then we are moving in the right direction.

The Important Book by Margaret Wise Brown is not just for preschoolers. The predictable text lends itself beautifully for summarization.  Here is a snippet:  "The important thing about rain is/ that it is wet./ It falls out of the sky,/ and it sounds like rain,/ and makes things shiny,/ and it does not taste like anything,/ and is the color of air./ But the important thing about rain is that it is wet."   Substitute the concept you have taught for the word rain, and you have a nice little summary. 

Charlie the Caterpillar by Dom DeLuise
I have had this book for twenty years.  It is perfect for the beginning of school. Nobody likes poor Charlie.  The monkeys, the mice, and the rabbits leave him out of their games and tell him to "Giddadda here!" When Charlie becomes a beautiful butterfly, life changes for Charlie.  This is a great book to teach the writing traits of voice and word choice.

Big Chickens byLeslie Helakoski
Big Chickens is the story of four cautious chickens who discover that they are not "chicken" chickens after all. Throughout the predictable book, they encounter several obstacles, to which they have the same reply. "I'm afraid to....", "What if......" They overcome each obstacle, somewhat by accident. In the end, they encounter the most dangerous obstacle of all, a wolf!

Our Tree Named Steve by Alan Zweibel
In this sweet book, which is based on real events, a dad writes a letter to his children, who are away visiting grandparents, explaining that a storm has taken their favorite tree. He details through the years the special relationship the family has had with this tree. At the end, the father reminds his children that Steve will always be with them. We find out just how on the final page. (so clever.)

Dogku by Andrew Clements is an adorable story about a mischievous dog who finds a loving family.  The best part of this book is that it is written entirely in haiku!


  1. Yours is the second recommendation for Dogku that I've seen today. I think it's a must for the next trip to the library! Fun list.

  2. Pete the Cat sounds like a must! Thanks for the great suggestions.

  3. Love Dogku!! I can see I need to read Those Shoes; several people mentioned this book. Thanks for sharing!

  4. Love the Important Book! Every year on each child's birthday we made an Important Book for them as a class present - I am thrilled it made your list! Thank you for all the new titles too!

  5. Thanks for joining us, I have to check out Ordinary Mary's Extrodinary Deed.

  6. Thanks for sharing! I have Ish on my list too! I need to read Big Chickens again. I keep seeing Scaredy Squirrel books and I am unfamiliar with them. I will have to look at those.

  7. I loved your ideas here! I will be able to purchase more excellent picture books for my library based on this and the lists of others in the August 10 for 10.

    I am a new follower!

    Let's share ideas.
    I'd love to have you visit my blog at www.readerbuzz.blogspot.com.

  8. Cheryl4.9.10

    I LOVE Our Tree Named Steve and recommend it all the time when teachers want a book about family stories. It's an obscure little book with a powerful story.