I’ve lurked on the #PB 10for10 posts for the past few years and this year I decided was my year to post. I’ve taught mostly grades 6-12 and am now a teacher educator, so I decided to post the books that I have used in my own teaching.
By Dom DeLuise (yes, the comedian/actor/director)
Charlie is a curious caterpillar who eagerly wandered the world to meet new creatures. However, each time he meets new critters (monkeys, rabbits etc.) they don’t allow him to play with them because he is “an ugly caterpillar.” After several experiences like this, Charlie begins to feel ugly and sad that no one wants to be around him. However, as will happen with caterpillars, he spins a cocoon and over the fall and winter he sleeps and dreams of having a friend. When he emerges in spring, he is a beautiful butterfly. Then, all the creatures who insulted him want to be his friend. But, he realizes they would not be “real” friends because they only judged him by his looks. Instead, he meets Katie the caterpillar and helps her see the beauty in herself. This is a great beginning of the year read, and I reminder to middle schoolers to be wary of judging each other by appearance.
Faithful Elephants: A True Story of Animal, People and War
By Yukio Tsuchiy
This true story will make you cry (and it is dealing with sensitive issues of death and war), and it highlights the way war and conflict hurt beyond the typical guns and bombs. It begins with a cheerful zoo in Japan in modern times that has a memorial dedicated to the animals who died in World War I – specifically the three performing elephants, John, Tonky, and Wanly. One of the zookeepers tells the story of the memorial.
During WWI, Japan was being bombarded and the Army was afraid that the dangerous animal could get loose so they ordered the zoos to kill their animals. But, the three elephants were smart and avoided all methods to euthanize them. Even under such horrible circumstances, the elephant continued to try and perform for their trainers. However, they finally died from starvation and the war continued. Yet, their legacy of being innocent victims of war continues to be told. I used this with high school students along with Night by Elie Wiesel and our study of World War II.
By Paul Fleischman
Welsey is an odd-looking boy who was bullied at school. But over summer vacation, he decides to grow his own food and create a new civilization. With a bit of magic, he garden grows unknown forms of eatable plants, and he begins to create his own clothes, language, and ways of doing things. His former bullies become interested in his project, and he invites them into Weslandia. He ends the summer glorying in his creativeness and difference and helps his classmates overcome their own need to conform. I used this in middle school to introduce our study of ancient civilizations and how culture develops.
By David Wisniewski
Developed as a Top Secret file, this book tells the “real” reason gown-ups say things like, “Eat your vegetables” and “Don’t bite your fingernails.” Each vignette begins with the admonition, the official reason for the admonition, and then the TRUTH – ie. If we don’t eat the vegetables, they will take over the earth. As master model of creative fiction, I used this book to prompt middle school students to write their own “files” of admonitions from their parents.
By Ruth Brown
Using the traditional “This is the house that Jack built” format, a cat and butterfly playfully wander through the backyard, forest, and fields. However, as they move through the landscape, it becomes increasing polluted until they come to the factory that Jack built that is spewing smoke and contaminated water. The illustrations are moving, detailed and a great example of development of mood. The relationship between the cat and butterfly is also interesting to note through the journey.
By Debbie Boone
“Rose was a little girl whose eyes were full of dreams. Most people see things just as they are. Rose saw everything blanketed in dreams of what could be.” Need some inspiration to dream? Try this book.
By Richard Jorgensen
Reading together is so much more than a literacy practice – it bonds people across time, ages and spaces. This story illustrates a little girl growing up reading with her dad (even in college and long-distance), reading with her own children, and reading to him at the end of his life. “The best of times that I’ve ever had are all of those times I’ve spent reading with Dad.”
By Copper Edens
This is a modern retelling of A “Visit from St. Nick” by Clement Clark Moore (T'was the Night Before Christmas). Each family member is engaged in different solitary pursuits, the night before Christmas – watching TV, playing video games, or listening to their cassette recorder (think IPod). But when the Santa Cows arrive on the rooftop, the family sets aside their media and join together for songs and games. The family re-connects to each other through a snowy game of baseball.
By Mark Reibstein
The main character is a cat named Wabi Sabi, who wants to know what her name means. However, no one, not even the cat's master, could explain the meaning of wabi sabi. So the cat begins to ask all the creatures around her and each give her a different explanation – Snowball, the cat; Rascal, the dog; and a bird, who tells Wabi Sabi to seek out Kosho, the wise monkey. In her travels, Wabi Sabi encounters the bright lights of the city, the cool beauty of the forest, the warmth of friendship, the pleasure of not hurrying, and the joy of returning home. This all is wabi sabi. Wabi sabi, according to the end pages, is an ancient Chinese philosophy that shaped Japanese culture to emphasize simplicity over extravagance. The format of the book wonderfully illustrates this philosophy.
By Holly Meade
Great beginning or end of the year read. The young bird has to leave the nest, but he is unsure. He considers both the positives and negatives of trying something new – it could be wonderful or he could get lost. He watches others, practices a little, and then takes the leap.