Sunday, November 16, 2014

25+ Recommended Children's Picture Books for Teaching Literary Techniques

Bruchac, Joseph.  (1995). The Earth Under Sky Bear's Feet: Native American Poems of the Land.  Illustrated by Thomas Locker. New York:  Philomel Books.   
  • A collection of 12 poems that offer Native American explanations of nature.
  • Of particular note is the cohesion Bruchac achieves through voice, simile, repetition, dialogue, and sensory details. 

Buchmann, Steven and Diana Cohn. (2012). The Bee Tree. Illustrated by Paul Mirocha. El Paso, TX: Cinco Puntos Press.
  • In this book we learn about Nizam and his family who live near a rainforest preserve in Malaysia, and the tualang trees of that forest have been at the center of an important clan tradition, the honey hunt, for as far back as anyone can remember. Nizam’s grandfather, Pak Teh, calls upon his grandson to continue the tradition. Nizam wants to make Pak Teh proud, but worries about whether he is brave enough to climb 120 feet into the rainforest canopy at night and trick the angry giant bees out of their honey. 
  • Of note are the authors' use of narrative and explanatory text and their use of similes. Such as: 

  1. We enter the forest as if visiting a neighbor’s house.
  2. The bees roar past like a raging monsoon, swarming after the glowing sparks falling to the ground.
  3. Holding the comb in my hand is like discovering a treasure chest of gold. 
  4. Just as the bess return to the rainforest every year, I will do the same.”

Christian, Peggy. (2008). If You Find a Rock.  Photos by Barbara Hirsch Lember. New York:

  • A book length picture book poem about different types of rocks and their uses. 
  • Barbara Hirsch Lember colored the black-and-white photographs she made
  • Of particular note is the author's use of 2nd person, direct address; use of repetition, and strong verbs.

Cooney, Barbara. (1988).  Island Boy. New York: Puffin Books.

  • Cooney tells the story of Matthais and the legacy he inherits and builds on Tibbets Island. 
  • Of particular note is the author's use of: alliteration ("crowned by spiky spruce trees..."),  diction ("soft salt air wafting up...", "...moored their pleasure boats", ), internal rhyme ("behind it in the bay, lay the other islands...", "He hopped and flopped..."), motif (wild bird), parallel structure ("felled the trees and cleared the north end...", "ploughing and planting, and chopping"), use of proper nouns and specific nouns ("The Egg Rock...",  "Gulls, terns...cormorants...eiders...sea pigeons"), syntactical repetition ("It was he who...", "Pa taught...He taught...And he taught...", The ship carried...The Six Brothers carried..."),

Crews, Donald. (1998). Bigmama’s. New York: Greenwillow Books. 
  • In this memoir, four African-American children and their mother travel by train to visit grandparents in a rural town. When the family reaches its destination, the children inspect each room of the house. Outside, they investigate the yard, the toolshed, the barn, the stable, and, finally, the pond. To their everlasting delight and satisfaction, they see that everything is "still the same."
  • Of particular note is the author's use of narration, dialogue, diction and sensory detail.

Daly, Niki. (2007). Pretty Salma: A Little Red Riding Hood Story from Africa. New York: Clarion Books.
  • This Red Riding Hood story is set in Ghana. When Pretty Salma is sent to the market by Granny, she takes a short-cut through the bad side of town and meets a Bad Dog who tricks and steals her sandals, clothing and goodies. 
  • Of particular note is the author's use of characterization and the use of illustrations to mimic and accentuate plot detail.

DiSalvo-Ryan, DyAnne. (1994). City Green. New York: HarperCollins. 
  • This is a story about a girl, Marcy, who along with her neighbors helps to clean up an abandoned lot in a city. At first Old man Hammer, Marcy's neighbor opposes the work.  He has a change of heart.
  • Of particular note is the author's use of of a plot and subplot, along with characterization and simile.

Elya, Susan Middleton. (2006). Home at Last. Illustrated by Felipe Davalos. New York: Lee & Low Books. 
  • In this story we learn that Ana Patiño and her family have just moved to the United States from Mexico and although Ana learns to speak English, her mother does not as she thinks learning another language will be impossible. An incident happens that makes Ana’s mother change her mind about learning English.
  • Of particular note is the author's development of dynamic characters and use of circular structure (opening and closing).

from In the Garden with Dr. Carver. 
Gringsby, Susan. (2010). In the Garden with Dr. Carver. Illustrated by Nicole Tadgell. Morton Grove, IL: Albert Whitman & Company.
  • In this story the reader meets Sally, a young girl living in rural Alabama in the early 1900s, a time when people were struggling to grow food in soil that had been depleted by years of cotton
  • production. One day, Dr. George Washington Carver shows up to help the grownups with their farms and the children with their school garden.
  • Of particular note is the author's use of personification ("But cotton, like a hungry monster, had gobbled up the good foods in Alabama’s soil. Dr. Carver was showing folks how to make our poor soil healthy again."), and the use of similes ("Before you change or destroy something, you need to understand why it exists and its relationship with the rest of nature. The plants, the soil, and the animals that visit are all connected , just like a web." and "Some people come in and out of your life, as quick as a hummingbird darting a trumpet vine.").

from Frog Song.
Guiberson, Brenda Z. (2013). Frog Song. Illustrated by Gennady Spirin. New York: Henry Holt.
  • In this informational text, Brenda Guiberson introduces the reader to eleven unique frogs from different places in the world. The illustrations are portraits of each frog painted by Gennady Spirin. 
  • Of particular note is the author's use strong verbs (“bellow, clang, rattle, sing, trill, warble, whistle"), parallel structure, and onomatopoeia.

Guiberson, Brenda Z. (2009). Life in a Boreal Forest. Illustrated by Gennady Spirin. New York: Henry Holt.
  • This book explains about the great northern forest—the boreal forest that is home to a unique ecosystem of animals and plants. It covers one-third of the earth’s total forest area and is home to so many birds that it is known as “North America’s bird nursery.” The forest is a treasure trove of riches, but it’s threatened by increased human development and climate changes. Amazing illustrations (paintings) by Gennady Spirin.
  • Of particular note is the author's use onomatopoeia, strong verbs/participles, parallel structure, and the author's explanation of scientific processes.

from  Delivering Justice: W.W. Law and the Fight for Civil Rights.
Haskins, Jim. (2005). Delivering Justice: W.W. Law and the Fight for Civil Rights. Illustrated by Benny Andrews. New York: Lee & Low Books.

  • This picture book biography tells of W.W. Law and chronicles how he grows up in Savannah, GA which at the time is segregated, joins the NACCP, and fights for civil rights. He led the Great Savannah Boycott in 1960-1961. Law represented non-violent change. Savannah was the first of the southern cities to end racial discrimination. Andrews highly stylized art extends and complicates the text. 
  • Of particular note is the author's use of embedded context clues for key terms ("...segregated...Westley went to a separate school...Drink from water fountain marked "Colored"...could not sit at ...lunch counter."), diction (...kneel-ins...wade-ins..."), extended metaphor ("...singing together made a thunderous sound. And that mighty noise mad people think that perhaps working together they could really make something happen.", "delivered more than just the mail...he delivered justice."),  parallel structure (", cleaning and taking care..."), strong verbs ("lured...", "...yelled and jeered..." ), and use of subheadings.

Hesse, Karen. (1999). Come On, Rain. Illustrated by Jon Muth. New York: Scholastic.
  • “Come on, Rain!" Tess pleads to the sky as listless vines and parched plants droop in the endless heat. Then the clouds roll in and the rain pours. Tess, her friends, and their mothers dance to celebrate the shower. Let’s read and see what Tess experiences and how the author uses specific words to convey those experiences.
  • Of particular note is the author's use of participles; sensory details, and characterization.

from Henry's Night

Johnson, D.B.  & Linda Michelin. (2009). Henry's Night. Illustrated by D.B. Johnson.  New York:
Houghton Mifflin.

  • This narrative recounts Henry's nighttime walk in search of the elusive whippoorwill.  Henry is a bear who is fashioned after Henry David Thoreau. The illustrations by Johnson have an ethereal quality to them and help to extend the idea of the uncertainty that frames Henry's nighttime quest. 
  • Specifically, Johnson & Michelin's diction, use of strong verbs (drift, tolling, float, capture, wings, stride, trips, flashes, leap, snags, slide, flow), inclusion of onomatopoeia and other sensory details, use of first-person narration, personification, and magical realism, tension via the advance of the clock [a trope], symbolism of the quest to find the bird that has not been seen.
  • Phrases & sentences worth noting: "I sit up to my chin in night...," "There is no path.", "Clouds erase the moon." "Here where the woods end, all is quiet." "I feel the beat of its bird heart." "The raft, the fog, the bird's song and I--are all as light as morning air."

from  Stichin’ and Pullin’: A Gee’s Bend Quilt.
McKissack, Patricia. (2008). Stichin’ and Pullin’: A Gee’s Bend Quilt. Illustrated by Cozbi A. Cabrera. New York: Random House.

  • For a hundred years, generations of women from Gee’s Bend, Alabama have quilted together, sharing stories, trading recipes, singing hymns—all the while stitchin’ and pullin’ thread through cloth. Every day Baby Girl listens, watches, and waits, until she’s called to sit at the quilting frame. Piece by piece, she puzzles her quilt together, telling not just her story as she grows up, but the story of her family, the story of Gee’s Bend, and the story of justice and freedom that her ancestors’ struggled to attain. She tells these stories through a series of poems.
  • Of particular note is how the author tells a extended story about Baby Girl growing up across a series of poems.  Further the author's use of repetition, sensory detail, metaphor, historical incidents and recollections are well done.  I have used this text to introduce 2nd graders to: line, stanza, speaker, tone, theme, and subject.

Medina, Tony. (2002). Love to Langston. Illustrated by R. Gregory Christie. New York: Lee & Low Books.

  • This series of 14 poems work together to convey the life and attitudes of Langston Hughes. The illustrations by R. Gregory Christie complicate and extend meaning. At the end of the text are fourteen brief notes that shed biographical information on each poem based on a recounting of critical experiences of Langston Hughes.  
  • The difference in diction between the poems and the explanations would make for a good lesson as well. Specifically, speaker's voice, use of repetition, internal rhymes, metaphor, alliteration, consonance, and rhythm are all of note.

Mora, Pat. (2005). Dona Flor: A Tall Tale about a Giant Woman with a Great Big Heart. Illustrated by Raul Colon. New York: Alfred A. Knopf.
  • In this tall tale,  Doña Flor is a giant lady who lives in a tiny village in the American Southwest. Popular with her neighbors, she lets the children use her flowers as trumpets and her leftover tortillas as rafts. Flor loves to read, too, and she can often be found reading aloud to the children. One day, all the villagers hear a terrifying noise: it sounds like a huge animal bellowing just outside their village. Everyone is afraid, but not Flor.
  • Of particular note is the author's use of extended metaphor, dialect, exaggeration, and personification.
Nivola, Claire A. (2008). Planting the Trees of Kenya. New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux. 
  • Claire Nivola tells the story of Wangari Muta Maathai’s effort to change the fate of her land by teaching many to care for it. An author’s note provides further information about Wangari Maathai and the Green Belt Movement.
  • Of particular note is the author's use of story cohesion by circular opening and closing and integration of quotations by Maathai.

Nolen, Jerdine. (2003). Thunder Rose. Illustrated by Kadir Nelson. San Diego, CA: Silver Whistle/Harcourt.

  • In this tall tale, Thunder Rose astounds all, grapples with drought, and saves the day. Fabulous and playful illustrations by Kadir Nelson.
  • Of particular note is the author's use of extended metaphor, dialect, exaggeration, and personification.

Park, Linda Sue. (2004). The Firekeeper’s Son. Illustrated by Julie Downing. New York: Sandpiper.

  • This story is set in Korea in the early 1800s before telegraphs were widely used and telephones had been invented. It tells a story about an incident that happened when Sang-hee’s father failed to light the signal fire.
  • Of particular note is the author's use of extended metaphor/simile ("Sang-hee ran up the mountain path. He knew the path like a friend. But tonight it was not at all friendly” (p. 20), development of historical setting, personification (“Then a tongue of flame licked the tinder. It ate all the tinder and the reached greedily for the brush. Soon the whole pile was aflame"), and characterization through actions and thoughts.

Prévert, Jacques. (2007). How to Paint the Portrait of a Bird. Illustrated by Mordecai Gernstein. New York: Roaring Brook Press.
  • In this book-length poem, a young boy wakes up and sees a bright colored bird perched on his windowsill and decides to entice the bird into a painting, hoping that the bird will sing for him. This book explores creativity.
  • The illustrations help to explain and extend meaning.
  • Of particular note is the author's use of direct address, simple syntax, and parenthetical.

Ramirez, Antonio. (2004). Napí. Illustrated by Domi. Toronto, ON: Groundwood Books. 

  • This narrative is set in the Mexican state of Oaxaca Napí and tells of a young Mazateca girl who lives with her family in a village on the bank of a river. Each afternoon she listens to her grandfather's stories. As she listens, she imagines different colors — orange, purple, violet, and green. When night comes, the trees fill with white herons settling on their branches. The ceiba tree, which she sits beneath listening to her grandfather, sends Napí dreams every night. 
  • Of particular note is the author's use of magical realism, narration, strong characterization, personification ("...the afternoon dresses itself in many different colors.”), and circular beginning and ending to text.

Richards, Jean. (2002). A Fruit is a Suitcase for Seeds. Illustrated by Anca Hariton. Minneapolis, MN: First Avenue Editions.
  • In this book Richards writes about seeds, their purpose, and growth.
  • Of particular note is the author's use of extended metaphor. 

Rodriguez, Rachel Victoria. (2009). Building on Nature: The Life of Antoni Gaudí. Illustrated by Julie Paschkis. New York: Henry Holt.
  • This is a picture book biography of architect, Antoni Gaudí. Gaudí turned nature into art, and in the process he revolutionized the world of architecture.
  • Of particular note is the author's use of  strong verbs and parallel structure (“For him, the world is Cantalonia. Mountain peaks jag against the sky. Silvery olive trees sway in the breeze. The sea sparkles blue.”and  “Cherries hang overhead. Birds wheel around and soar to the sky.)

from The Cuckoo’s Haiku and Other Birding Poems.
Rosen, Michael. J. (2009). The Cuckoo’s Haiku and Other Birding Poems. Illustrated by Stan Fellows. Somerville, MA: Candlewick Press.
  • In spare and graceful words, Michael J. Rosen captures the call of the mysterious cuckoo as well as essential characteristics of more than twenty commonly seen North American birds. The artist, Stan Fellows, creates watercolors to accompany the poems. 
  • Of particular note is the author's blending of haiku alongside explanatory text. The haikus are surprising.

from The Storm Book. 
Zolotow, Charlotte. (1952/1980). The Storm Book. Illustrated by Margaret Bloy Graham. New York: HarperTrophy.

  • A brief story about summer rainstorm that is highly lyrical.  The text opens with the approach of a storm on summer's day in the country that the reader experiences through a young child, before shifting to provide brief accountings of the the storm in a city, at the seashore, in the mountains, before returning to the boy at his home and the storm passing. 
  • Without question, this text is sensory feast.  Zolotow wants her reader to experience the heat of the day that gives way to a summer storm, and the passing of that storm. 
  • Throughout, Zolotow makes use of strong verbs (A queer yellow light spreads...", ) personification ("When the thunder roars), similes ("The lightning was like a wild white wolf running free in the woods  and lamp like a gentle white terrier who came when the little boy called."), alliteration ("A young husband herds his sheep to shelter."), assonance ("...where not a breath stirs and the birds don't sing.", " quick twitterings..."),  parallel structure ("But the hazy sky begins to shift, and the yellow heat turns gray."), onomatopoeia ("It beats a loud tattooing pitpatpatting on the roof,,,"),  rhythm ("The loud pitpatpatting on the roof grows softer and softer, and slowly becomes a dull pit-a-pat, pit-pit-pit, and at last stops altogether."),  diction  (" old fisherman stands boot-deep in the waves...splatter against his oilskin," "A queer yellow light,"),  and multiple settings.

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