Picture Book Resources
Stuck by Oliver Jeffers
Floyd's kite got stuck in a tree. So Floyd throws his shoe, which also gets stuck. And then his other shoe...which also gets stuck. And soon Floyd has quite a collection of odd (and quite impossible) things up in the tree in a mad effort to get down the kite (and the other things).
A humorous and absurd modern tall tale that is sure to delight. Oliver Jeffers has quite the imagination (and gives that boy Floyd quite the throwing arm!), and the comic ending was delightfully funny. My one qualm with the book is the font of text used. I'm guessing little ones may find it hard to read as they don't often learn cursive till 2nd or 3rd grade (if they learn it at all).
- Tall Tales: For those covering tall tales, this is a good example of something that even kids can tell is a bit too ridiculous to ever have really happened. Use it to help illustrate key things that make a story a tall tale. What could have been the root real tale this was based on? What parts of the story make it a tall tale?
- Writing Extension: Have students write their own version of this tall tale. Pick a different type of tree, have a kite get stuck, and then let their imaginations run with what they would do to get the kite down.
- Memory: Warn the kids before reading, that they’ll need to pay close attention to what is going on because there will be a memory challenge afterwards. After reading the book, hide it away, and have the class (or individual child) see if they can come up with a list of all the things Floyd threw into the tree.
- Fun Read: Have some fun! Read a ridiculous story!
Uni the Unicorn by Amy Krouse Rosenthal, ill. by Brigette Barrager
Uni the Unicorn is a mostly typical unicorn, except that she believes that little girls are real. Though everyone scoffs and laughs at her for this, Uni holds on to her belief and imagines all the things she and her little girl will do together.
My younger self would have loved this book. Ok, my present day self still loves this book. Mostly, I like the bright and colorful, beautiful illustrations that harken to the intro of a Disney movie. I also like the imagination stuff as a dedicated fantasy fan and fantasy animal fan. A splendiferous fantasy picture book for kids who have good imaginations. The open ending just begs to be fleshed out by those imaginative young minds.
- Creative Writing: Have students continue the story either individually or as a class.
- Point of View: If you’re studying point of view in writing or reading, this book shows the story from two sides, both Uni’s and the little girl’s.
- Fantasy: This could be used in classes looking for examples of the fantasy genre.
- Imagination: Both Uni and the little girl have fantastic imaginations. You could use this to introduce the concept of imagination to younger readers, or to start a discussion with older readers about what kinds of things they can imagine.
- Art: This is a beautifully illustrated book. Look at the pretty pictures!
Sparky by Jenny Offill, ill. by Chris Appelhans
A little girl desperately wants a pet. Her mom says she can only have a pet that does not need to be walked or bathed or fed. Ever resourceful, the little girl consults her school librarian and discovers that a sloth would be the perfect pet that meets her mother’s requirements. So she sends off an order and soon enough her very own sloth arrives. She dubs it Sparky. Sparky does not quite impress like other pets, but the little girl still adores him.
- Sloths: If you’re studying unusual mammals, here’s a fun book about a sloth. There’s actually quite a few other books out featuring sloths recently. You could easily do a sloth reading day, combining this with other books like Sloth Slept On by Frann Preston-Gannon
- Thinking Outside the Box: The little girl in this story does a fantastic job of thinking outside the box (perhaps more than her mother would have liked). If you’re working on projects that you want students to approach in unique ways, this could be a good inspirational book. (I also love that her first step is to consult her librarian!)
- Unconditional Love: Sparky does relatively little to earn the adoration of his owner. It would be very understandable for the little girl to be bored or upset with his lacklusterness. It’s a great opportunity to talk about unconditional love.
- Pets: If you’re talking about pets, this is an unusual and sweet pet book to include.
- Art: The illustrations are light and airy and seem to fit the mood of the book well.
Kid Sheriff and the Terrible Toads by Bob Shea, ill. by Lane Smith
Drywater Gulch had a big problem. A big problem by the name of Toad. No, not hippety-hoppety toads, outlaw bandits of the family name Toad. Kid Sheriff rides slowly into town on his tortoise, and promptly changes all of the wanted posters to rightly reflect the perpetrators of the crime in his opinion...dinosaurs. Will the Toad gang let the dinosaurs take all the credit for their crimes? Will Kid Sheriff find real dinosaurs? Will the town's cumin ever be safe again?
This was completely, unexpectedly marvelous. It has impeccable comic timing (especially with Kid Sheriff on his trusty steed). The plot line is sure to first befuddle and then amaze readers with its brilliance. And the illustration style matches the tone of the story to a T. A thoroughly enjoyable Western tale with unforgettable characters.
- Vernacular: If you’re talking about the use of vernacular in writing or how to read it, this is a good book to use as an example. The characters speak in vernacular, and thus some of the spellings will look wacky to kids who’ve never encountered this writing device before.
- Western: If you’re studying the Old West, or doing a Western unit, this is a fun book to include.
- Reading Comprehension Challenge: Kid Sheriff is one slick character. Readers will have to stay on their toes to keep up with his plan. Make sure to follow this read with comprehension questions or see if they can summarize the book in their own words. What was Kid Sheriff’s plan? What did the town think of Kid Sheriff at first? What did the Toads think Kid Sheriff was doing? Did your understanding of Kid Sheriff’s plan or his intelligence change? At what point?
- Dinosaurs: Ok, so there aren’t any real dinosaurs in this book, but there is plenty of talk about them and drawings of them. Could be a good book to read to a dinosaur enthusiast.
- Comic Timing: This book does an amazing job with comic timing, especially with Kid Sheriff on his trusty steed (a very, very slow tortoise). For classes working on their own picture books or comic books, this would be a good study for figuring out why certain page spreads make readers laugh.
- Color Scheme in Art: Lane Smith picked a color scheme of rusty earth tones that really helps readers get into the Ol’ West feel. It’s a good example for art classes when talking about how color choice can influence mood. (You could use Uni the Unicorn as a further example for how the art color scheme influences the mood. It is a good contrasting color scheme to Kid Sheriff and provides a different feel.)
Count the Monkeys by Mac Barnett, ill. by Kevin Cornell
Readers get all set to count the monkeys...only to find that a cobra has scared them off! Two mongooses show up to scare off the cobra, but the monkeys still aren't there for the count of three. Readers are encouraged to perform various actions to try and scare away the ensuing groups so that the monkeys can finally make an appearance.
This was a hilarious book. I had no idea what I was getting into, except Mac Barnett hasn't let me down yet. This was oh so much fun, and I can see kids really getting into this book. If you're looking for a very fun and interactive counting book, look no further.
- Prediction & Prior Knowledge: Before opening this book, have kids predict what they think the book will be about. But before reading this one, read some other Mac Barnett books. Then ask them if they would like to revise their prediction. What does their prior knowledge of Mac Barnett’s writing style tell them will likely be true about this book?
- Counting: This one wild and crazy counting book that will get kids practicing their numbers as well as keeping them entertained.
- Interactive Read: If you need to make sure kids are engaged or need to get the wiggles out during reading time, having the kids act out the prompted things to get the various animals to leave should help.
- Compare/Contrast: Compare this book to tales like There Was an Old Woman Who Swallowed a Fly in which one animal is introduced to chase away another animal, and then that animal needs to be chased away.
- Humorous Read: If it is just one of those days and you need a good laugh, pull out this book.
Graphic Novels Resources
Rocky & Bullwinkle: Moose on the Loose by Mark Evanier, ill. by Roger Langridge
A collection of four two-part Rocky & Bullwinkle adventures with short Dudley-Do-Right episodes thrown in between. This new graphic novel of Rocky & Bullwinkle adventures as they try to evade the plots of Boris & Natasha felt true to the original cartoon tv series, with some modern devices thrown in (like cell phones).
- Puns: Just like the original TV series, the titles of the episodes in this graphic novel collection are all horribly pun-laden. If you’re talking about puns in language arts, you’ll find some doozies of examples in here.
- Reluctant Readers: Graphic novels are always a great way to get reluctant readers devouring a book.
- Intergenerational Connection: Are you looking for a way to get youngsters to connect with an older generation? Rocky & Bullwinkle cartoons first came out in 1959, has had reruns showing since then and spin-off movies, so new and old fans could use this as a common topic to break the ice.
- Fun Read: Of course, nobody is meant to take Bullwinkle or Dudley too seriously. Just enjoy the wacky adventures.
Invader ZIM, Vol. 1 by Jhonen Vasquez, Eric Trueheart, and Aaron Alexovich, ill. by Megan Lawton, Simon Troussellier, and Rikki Simons
A spin-off of a TV cartoon series that was out some-odd years ago. ZIM is an incompetent alien invader, sent to Earth by his superiors just to get him out of their hair. Most of his kind are busy taking over planets. ZIM is so incompetent, he’s lucky to make it from one day to the next, but of course he’s totally oblivious to his banishment or incompetence. Dib is ZIM’s next door neighbor and the only Earth resident on to ZIM’s schemes. (Well, except for Dib's sister Gaz, but she realizes ZIM isn’t really a serious threat so she mostly ignores him.) ZIM’s only companion for his invasion and takeover of Earth is a robot. Most other invaders got a good robot, ZIM was given a damaged one, GIR. (My most favoritest character!!! See, I like him so much I throw aside the conventions of good grammar just for him.)
Just read this one for fun! (You may want to find an episode of the original TV series to watch just so you can get the voices in your head right.)