It may be too early to think about holiday gifts, but if there’s a passionate young reader in your life, consider a set of three new picture books, all of which celebrate the joy of discovering the world through books. Teachers – each of these books is an excellent jumping-off point for a conversation about the power of words, an especially important discussion in this environment of divisive rhetoric.
A Child of Books by Oliver Jeffers and Sam Winston
A young girl shows a new friend around her imaginative world made of stories. “I can show you the way,” she tells him, before they travel “over a mountain of make-believe”…..and lose themselves “in forests of fairy tales.” Their path is made up of words. Every element – the tree branches, the mountain, the monster – all of it words. It is beautiful and inspiring.
One of my top five favorite picture books of all time is Lost and Found by Oliver Jeffers. I can barely read that one without crying – it is a perfect gem. A Child of Books is more lyrical, but equally moving. Meeting Oliver Jeffers is on my “If I had three wishes list!”
I Am A Story by Dan Yaccarino
I always forget how much I love Dan Yaccarino’s work and then he releases a new book, and I enthusiastically discover him again! Years ago, during a school book fair, I fell in love with Unlovable, Yaccarino’s picture book about an “unlovable” little pug. And then I went through a thing with Every Friday, a picture book about a father and his son’s weekly walk to their favorite diner. I need to pull that one back out! Next, there was The Fantastic Undersea Life of Jacques Cousteau which went right on to Inly’s summer reading list.
I Am a Story goes into the Dan Yaccarino Hall of Fame. It’s the story of a story: “I am a story,” the book begins. “I was told around a campfire…then painted on cave walls.” The story continues its journey through the various ways it has been printed and acted out and ultimately, of course, how it can be read on a screen. Most of all, Yaccarino’s book reminds us that stories are what connect us. Without stories, who are we?
How This Book Was Made by Mac Barnett and Adam Rex
On a lighter note! How This Book Was Made tells the story of how this book was made – the one you are reading. It’s full of jokes, some of which kids won’t understand, but that doesn’t detract from the fun. I read it with a group of students, and they enjoyed the “inside joke” vibe. From the opening page in which the author addresses the reader by saying: “At first this book wasn’t a book. It was an idea,” the book takes the reader on a journey through drafts, illustrations, and printing, and waiting – until at last there is the book you are reading. Good fodder for a conversation about how long it takes a book to go from idea to tangible object!