Monday, March 2, 2009

Picture Books that Push and Stretch

Picture books that get forgotten because they are challenging or have an oblique message can be perfect in certain situations. They are not the ones for preschool storytimes, but they most definitely can stimulate discussion and deliver a punch and a pause to older kids and adults
One example is the picture book, Jumanji and its partner Zathura by Chris Van Allsburg which leave the reader with a puzzling conclusion. Movies have been made from each of these books, but the movies don’t replace the book experience.
Chris Van Allsburg has written several others that offer challenges and great rewards. Three of my favorites are The Mysteries of Harris Burdick, TheWretched Stone and The Sweetest Fig .
In the district’s collection one copy remains of the true and heart-wrenching World War II story, The Faithful Elephants by Yukio Tsuchiya in which the zookeeper tells of three performing elephants in the Ueno Zoo in Tokyo whose turn it is to die because there is no food left for them.
Just one copy of Yellow & Pink byWilliam Steig remains in the district. It is a witty conversation between two dolls on the nature of existence, and is great for starting a discussion.
Fortunately, a challenging picture book that won’t be weeded because it won the Caldecott Award in 1991 is David Macaulay’s Black and White which is actually four stories going on at once, interconnecting to make a fifth story and proving that nothing is really black and white!
In the 1997 picture book, The Bird, by Nicholas Allan, the story can be appreciated by kindergartners while the humorous connection to a familiar story will bring unexpected surprise to older kids.
There are so many more! Do you have a favorite picture book for older children and adults? Please let us know about some good ones!


Betsy said...

One of my favorites is "The Big Orange Splot" by Daniel Pinkwater. It deals with conformity and peer pressure among adults to all be the same. We have just one copy left at SG. Also, having just presented another Seuss birthday bash, I am reminded of the great messages contained in some of these favorites: Gertrude McFuzz (be happy with what you have), Yertle the Turtle (beware blind ambition?) and Horton Hears a Who (loyalty). Another excellent story is "Wheels: a Tale of Trotter Street" by Shirley Hughes. We don't have any of these left. But it was about a young boy, jealous of his friend's new bike and hoping for one of his own for his birthday even though his Mom really could not afford it. The good thing about this story is that he doesn't get a new bike. But he gets something more meaningful. I always thought this was instructional for both kids and parents.
This is a good idea for a list, though, so I will give this some more thought - and hopefully find a few that are more readily available.

Melissa said...

This is a great post! Thanks, Virginia! There's a great reference book called "Worth a Thousand Words: An Annotated Guide to Picture Books for Older Readers" that is on the shelf in the Koelbel Teacher's Collection. It's an older title, but there are lots of titles that we will still have on the shelves. Maybe we should consider using a picture book for one of our school-age book clubs?

Allison said...

Wow I really enjoyed reading about all of these books that surpass time. It is worthwhile for me to hear about these because most of which I have never heard of! Thanks for sharing ladies! I wonder what would be the response if we were to do a book club with one of these picture books?Hmmm...

Andrew @ ALD said...

I've always loved picture books with few words that let you use your imagination to describe the story. David Wiesner's books like "Tuesday", "Flotsam" & "June 29, 1999" come to mind, as do many of Van Allsburg's books. I also love "Hey, Al" (Yorinks & Egielski) which won a Caldecott many moons ago.