Picture Book Resources
Dr. Seuss’ ABC by Dr. Seuss
Dr. Seuss goes from A to Z introducing the most unusual creatures imagined for each letter in memorable rhyming text.
I picked this book to highlight as it is one of my favorite Seuss books, but many of the activities below could be applied to just about any Seuss book.
- Creative Writing: Use this book as a model for creative writing assignments in English (or adapt it to French, Spanish, Thai or any other alphabet) to help students create their own alphabet book or poem using real or imaginary things.
- Classification: I’ve used Seuss’ crazy characters in science to introduce classification systems. I had the students put them into groups and explain the grouping logic. It’s a great segue into introducing how scientists have organized creatures into groups based on various attributes.
- Art: Have students create their own art a la Seuss’ style. OR have students research what else Theodore Geisel used his art skills for (there are several biographies out there at all reading levels).
- Music: Since Seuss’ writing is rhymed and basically poetry, music classes could try to turn this book or one of his others books it into a song. (There’s also a Seuss song book out there in the book world if you’d like to swap someone else’s creativity and just sing.)
- Reading to the Very Young: This book was one of my very favorites as a young child. When I read it, I still hear the inflections and voices my parents used when reading it to me. I’m sure I’m not alone among those a Seuss book has stuck with over the years. It’s a good reminder to never underestimate the importance or longevity of the impact of reading to little ones.
- Living Languages: Dr. Seuss helped demonstrate the wonder of a living language by constantly introducing new words into the English vocabulary. He provides a good opportunity to discuss how living languages can change and grow.
- Alliteration: Dr. Seuss was a master of using alliteration. If you're covering this in language arts, this book has examples for just about every letter of the alphabet.
Pool by JiHyeon Lee
Two children meet at a crowded pool and have a fantastic time in the world they imagine under the water.
This wordless picture book will enthrall readers who love to imagine as they play. The imaginary world reminded me a great deal of Dr. Seuss’ imaginary worlds.
- Creative Writing (any language): Since this book is wordless, it creates a great writing prompt for students in any language class. Have them write words to accompany the story. You can have them work on different voices, different narrator types, word choice, and a host of other possible emphases within this writing assignment.
- Compare/Contrast Art: Lee’s creatures remind me of the kinds of things that Dr. Seuss came up with. Have students compare/contrast the two illustrators. There’s a nice interview with JiHyeon Lee about her creation of this book and how these fantastical creatures came about up on the Picturebook Makers blog.
- Imagination vs Reality: If you’re discussing the difference between imagination and reality, this book demonstrates that difference with colors. The normal world is black and white, and the imaginary world is in color.
- Art Analysis: Have art classes discuss why Lee chose to make the real world in black and white and the imaginary world in color.
- Korea: JiHyeon Lee is a Korean artist, so if you’re studying Korea, here’s a modern artist to highlight.
The Book with No Pictures by B.J. Novak
It is sometimes hard to get adults to say silly things, but this book's entire job is to get them to do just that. Because, once you start reading, you have to read what is written, and if what is written is silly...well, then you're guaranteed to say some silly things.
Kids are sure to love listening to the conflicted narrator of this book. He has to keep reading all the silly things but has little asides protesting reading further. As the title says, there are no pictures, but the words are given some graphic design perks and occasionally some color so it isn't entirely black and white plain text. It’s a fun read aloud. I’m bringing this book out for this blog post because Novak’s text is somewhat Seuss-ish in it’s zaniness.
- Speech: If you’re practice voice inflection or enunciation in speech class, this is a fantastic read aloud to help out with those. Also, it would just be fun to hear how different people read the same ridiculous text.
- Compare/Contrast Tongue Twisters: Dr. Seuss has readers say some pretty crazy things sometimes. Another one of my favorite Seuss books, O Say Can You Say, is filled with crazy things to read aloud. As it says in the book, “Oh my brothers! Oh my sisters! These are terrible tongue twisters!” Have students compare the crazy text of Novak’s book with O Say Can You Say and decide which they would rather read and why.
- Graphic Design: Classes looking at graphic design should take a look at Novak’s book to see how a book with no pictures used creative graphic design to make the pages a little more interesting.
Wherever You Go by Pat Zietlow Miller, ill. by Eliza Wheeler
A celebration of all the forms roads can take and the places that they go.
This book is in this blog post for how much it’s tone reminded me of Dr. Seuss’ Oh, the Places You’ll Go! and the whimsical illustrations.
- Compare/Contrast: Read this and Dr. Seuss’ Oh, the Places You’ll Go! for a great compare/contrast activity. The topics are similar, both are in rhyme, and both have creative illustrations, but they are also different in many ways too.
- Graduation: This seems like the kind of story that graduation speakers like to read or people like to give to graduates as it celebrates places travelled and the unknown road ahead.
- Moving: This could be a good book to read to kids who are about to move or who have moved recently. It warmly remembers what has been left behind while looking ahead with anticipation. It isn’t overtly about moving, so it could be a light segue into talking about feelings about an upcoming or past move.
- Road Trip Read: This would make a fantastic read before or during a road trip with kids to get them excited about all the things they might see.
ish (Creatrilogy) by Peter H. Reynolds
Ramon is always drawing, until his brother laughs at one of his drawings. He is ready to give it up all together because he just can't make things look quite right. But his sister encourages him saying she loves how all his drawings are -ish, not quite lifelike but with his own unique flourish to them. This sets Ramon free in his creativity, free to draw everything -ish and not worry about being exact.
A fantastic book for aspiring artists to encourage them to be free to have their own unique flare. I think Dr. Seuss would heartily approve of Ramon’s illustration style. Seuss also had an –ish flare.
- Dr. Seuss & ish: After reading a few Dr. Seuss books, read this with students and then have them debate whether or not Dr. Seuss would agree with Ramon’s sister or his brother and why.
- Thinking Outside the Box: Thinking outside the box for assignments can be hard for many students. If you want them to be more creative in their next assignments, possibly read this to them, discuss what it means to think outside the box, maybe discuss why this concept is scary to some of them, or even discuss when thinking outside the box is appropriate or when it isn’t appropriate. You can follow up discussions with a simple project in which they have to demonstrate thinking outside the box (maybe something as simple as decorating a coloring page). (Reynolds' book Going Places is also an excellent book to talk about thinking outside the box as the characters literally design something other than a box for their soap box derby.)
- Celebrating Creativity: Peter H. Reynolds has a whole series of books he’s created to celebrate creativity. This is one of those books. The Dot and Sky Color and Going Places also celebrate creative thinking. There’s a yearly celebration of creativity called International Dot Day inspired by his book The Dot on September 15. You could totally borrow some Dot Day activities and celebrate creativity for Dr. Seuss’ birthday too.
Art & Max by David Wiesner
Arthur is an accomplished artist. He is getting ready to paint. Max insists he can paint too. And he does, only all over Art! Things just get crazier from there. Max accidentally washes out Art, then takes away his outline, and he has to get him all back together again. Eventually, all is well and Art has learned to appreciate Max's unconventional artistic talents.
Wiesner has fun playing with art principles in odd ways in this book. Art & Max's relationship gets off to a very rocky start, and kids are sure to love all the things Max accidentally does to Art. I think Dr. Seuss would approve of the celebration of art and the silliness involved.
- Art Styles: Those who teach art could use this to talk about various styles of art. Pointilism, modern art, and realism are all displayed.
- Unconventional Creativity Debate: Have students find unconventional buildings, pieces of artwork or other artistic expressions they like, and then share with the class. See who agrees and who disagrees and why. (Make sure to set boundaries to keep things civil.) Then discuss why it may be good people have different tastes in artistic expressions. What would it be like if everyone had the same exact tastes? You can tie this in with Dr. Seuss by having them research various responses Seuss got to his artwork.
- Accidents, Friendship & Resolving Conflicts: Max and Art really get off to a rough start. Something that is probably identifiable to just about every person. We all have those times when we accidentally run into someone or worse. It’s a good opportunity to discuss how to respond when someone accidentally hurts you, and how to resolve differences in healthy ways.
I Will Take a Nap (Elephant & Piggie, #23) by Mo Willems
Gerald is tired and cranky. He knows that a nap is what he needs so he decides to take one. But Piggy keeps interrupting his nap, and Gerald just gets crankier and crankier. Or is he?
Kids are sure to love the facial expressions and the ending of this book. Adults will be oh-so-sympathetic to Gerald's plight during Piggy's epic snoring session. And parents are sure to love the way Gerald helps kids be more self-aware of when they need that oh so wonderful nap time.
- Self Care: It’s sometimes hard for kids to realize what their bodies need. This book provides a good opportunity to talk about recognizing symptoms of what you need and then acting on that knowledge to help keep yourself healthy physically and emotionally. That may be a bit much for a toddler to grasp, but who knows? Parents and teachers can certainly hope they can follow the example of Gerald.
- Bookish History: Once upon a time someone bet a certain author that he could not create a children’s book with only 50 words. That person lost the bet when Dr. Seuss wrote Green Eggs and Ham. This was the birth of a new genre of children’s literature, the early reader. The Elephant & Piggie series embodies many of the attributes Dr. Seuss first infused into this genre: The text is primarily simple, single-syllable words. The number of different words that appear are low, but the entertainment value is high. Celebrate Dr. Seuss’ birthday by reading Green Eggs and Ham, an Elephant & Piggie book, and other early reader books that exist now because of Dr. Seuss’ ingenuity.
- Humorous Read: Elephant & Piggie books are always good for a laugh (and Willems is sure to include something to make the adult readers chuckle too).
Middle Grade Fiction Resource
Zorgamazoo by Robert Paul Weston
Morty, a reporter zorgle who ends up chosen to go on a quest to find the missing zorgles of Zorgamazoo. Sounds great, right? But Morty feels a bit in over his head. That adventuring stuff is something his Dad did, it’s not really his thing. Katrina Katrell is all for adventure, which is a good thing because she is forced into running away from her guardian when Mrs. Krabone decides Katrina’s imaginative brain must be stopped with some good ol’ brain surgery by the lobotomy doc. Katrina gets away from Mrs. Krabone only to fall into the clutches of an unfriendly street gang. It’s looking quite bad for her until Morty stumbles in and saves the day. It’s only right that Katrina should then help Morty on his quest. So the two of them set off for Zorgamazoo and find plenty of adventures awaiting them.
It isn’t often that I find the comparisons on the front of a book spot on, but this one’s blurb comparing it to a mix of Dr. Seuss, Roald Dahl, Edward Gorey and Lemony Snicket is perfect. The entire thing is written in rhyme, and the rhyme and meter along with the made up critters and places definitely feel like something straight out of the brain of Dr. Seuss. Katrina’s back story feels like it was something cooked up by Snicket and Gorey, and the entire adventure feels a bit Dahl-ish. But lets give respect where respect is due, Mr. Weston has done an incredible thing! I mean, I can’t even begin to imagine how long it took him to get 281 pages of rhyming, metered text that flows! That right there deserves all the stickers that can be stuck on the front of the book. And he creates an imaginative adventure story kids would enjoy regardless of whether it rhymed or not too. It’s really a very impressive piece of literature. An impressive piece of literature that kids should enjoy. And that’s the biggest win.
- Compare/Contrast: Have students compare and contrast a snippet of Weston’s writing with Dr. Seuss.
- Read Aloud: If you’re looking for a read aloud for upper elementary or middle school, this is a good one.
- Poetry: If you’re doing a poetry unit, this is a truly impressive poetic work to pull out as an example. After trying to write just a few lines in rhyme, students should really appreciate how incredible it is that Weston wrote a full-length novel in rhyme.