Book Reviews - Books for Building Your Library

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This collection of 10 titles presents books that include lists. Show your students some of the many ways authors can enhance their writing by embedding lists in their books!

The Peace Book

In classic Todd Parr style, The Peace Book communicates big ideas with just a few words. With this clever, sincere, and tender text, readers will find themselves expanding their definitions of peace. Parr's brilliant colors prove worthy companion to his intelligent communication with children (and adults). Explore ways to find peace on the inside and spread peace to others, two worthy goals that could bring a little harmony to your classroom. Read this book twice (at least); you will find a new favorite part every time. Most of Todd Parr's books are built around lists, and they offer a simple format for beginning writers. Study The Peace Book and other Todd Parr books with your class and then offer them blank books. Your students won't want to stop writing!

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Click here to view this book in Amazon +

All the World

In our next issue, which publishes on December 15th, we are honored to feature the work of Liz Garton Scanlon and Marla Frazee in All the World. This 2010 Caldecott Medal Honor Book is larger than your average picture book. Once you discover Marla Frazee's beautifully detailed double-page illustrations, you'll see why the larger format was essential.

Though a young family are the central characters, All the World includes loads of multigenerational and multicultural characters and nontraditional families. Starting in the morning and ending in the evening, this book illustrates an ageless story about what people have done together for eons: eating, going to the farmer's market, laughing, and playing music together. Frazee hand-lettered Liz Garton Scanlon's nine stanza poem that provides the text for All the World. The central theme of this book is our interconnectedness with each other and the world around us. You'll find that Scanlon's lyrical stanzas are simple, yet outrageously profound. And I'll bet you'll find yourself repeating them to yourselves as a meditation: "Hope and peace and love and trust, All the world is all of us."

What Pete Ate from A to Z

A talented artist and designer, it's within the confines of children's books that Maira Kalman allows her creativity to run amuck. What Pete Ate from A to Z is a preposterous promenade through the alphabet, as consumed by Poppy Wise's indescriminating ravenous canine, Pete. For those accustomed to more traditional children's books, this witty and often bizarre story can be disconcerting (I've witnessed a grandmother's confusion when trying to make reasonable sense of some of the plot points). Full of ridiculous asides, unforgettable characters, and irreverent commentary, it is the ludicrous list of items Pete eats that makes this a top-notch pick amongst children and parents alike. The hand-printed text integrates with the bold, bright, childlike gouaches. The characters are drawn with such style and pizazz that their attitude and personalities are conveyed brilliantly. All of Maira Kalman's work is touched with unselfconscious magnificence. is no exception. Use this zany book to show children that alphabet books are a viable writing format and that an alphabetized list can be an accessible way to get started as a writer.

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Click here to view this book in Amazon +

Mrs. McTats and Her Houseful of Cats

Alyssa Satin Capucilli's counting and alphabet book lists twenty-five cats and one puppy that all miraculously show up on the doorstep of Mrs. McTats's "small cozy cottage." Joan Rankin's lovely, soft watercolors create a homey setting. Who wouldn't want to come live in a house with bright flowerpots on the windowsills and snuggly overstuffed armchairs? Mrs. McTats names the cats in alphabetical order from Abner to the final arrival of a puppy named Zoom. The imaginative and unusual names are so much fun to introduce to children (Xinnie, Linus, Quip, Ursula). The illustrations of each animal are unique and all have a personality as different as their names. Make sure you notice the subtle, whimsical touches, including Abner cleverly mimicking his mistress's every expression and pose, and the changing faces in an heirloom portrait. Another example of an alphabetized list, this is also an excellent book for exploring names.


Many nonfiction picture books are lovely examples of lists. For example, in Families Susan Kuklin brings readers beautiful, full-color photographs exploring families of all shapes and sizes. Kuklin interviewed fourteen children across several encounters, exploring what makes each family unique, and then let the children decide the text for the book and the subsequent setting for their family photographs. The children's voices are strong throughout this book and they speak frankly about race, religion, special needs, and divorce. The families are diverse along a variety of dimensions, and many children will see themselves in this text. Kuklin writes, "It is my hope that the children in Families will inspire you to think about your own life and the family that makes you special." The children's text in this book can serve as an authentic model for students who are writing about their own families.

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Click here to view this book in Amazon +

Zero is the Leaves on the Tree

We know what zero isn't, but Betsy Franco and Shino Arihara show us what it is! Zero really is a number and the brilliant text and delicate illustrations of Zero is the Leaves on the Tree can help you teach this mathematical concept to children. This book, however, is worth reading for its poetry as well. Children will enjoy expanding the list of ways to explain what zero is. The color palette in the illustrations is varied. Each truly captures the spirit of whatever aspect of zero the page presents. You will look at zero differently after reading this book. Use this book to show students how a list can be poetry and how seemingly benign nonfiction topics can offer deep opportunities for thinking.

Spicy Hot Colors

This is a book of lists within a list. Author Sherry Shahan and illustrator Paula Barragán offer you a smorgasbord of colors in Spanish. Rife with onomatopoeia and rippling with syncopation and rhythm, this book screams to be read aloud over and over again! The whole book is a party, as characters and colors dance their way through the pages. This is a boogie-woogie introduction to Latino culture that everyone will find festive! Use this book to invite bilingual writing and to show students how they can make lists within lists.

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Click here to view this book in Amazon +

The Tenth Good Thing About Barney

Judith Viorst's now-classic story about a boy who is mourning the loss of his cat, Barney, touches on myriad universal themes. Viorst's gentle insight into dealing with the death of a pet is profound, and Eric Blegved's illustrations are equally insightful. At the beginning of the story, the boy's mother suggests that he think of ten good things about Barney to share at his funeral. The middle of the book shows the boy working on his list, but he gets stuck at number nine. After conversations with others and much thoughtful deliberation over memories of Barney, the boy finally decides on the tenth good thing to finish his list. If you don't know this timeless story, read to hear the complete list of Barney's attributes, read by the boy who has found that making the list was a way to adjust to the loss of his pet. Let you students write their own "Ten Best Things About..." lists.

The Reading Teacher's Book of LIsts

Teachers, get your photocopiers ready and open your lesson planning books. This big book of lists gives elementary and reading teachers close to 200 lists to help create instructional materials and plan lessons. This is definitely a resource that you will want to have as a quick-grab guide waiting on your classroom shelf. The 4th edition of this text has been updated to include new lists such as "Reading Math" and "Ways to Define a Word." Lists from past editions, like "100 Ways to Praise" and "Story Starters" have been updated. And the classic lists from "Proofreading Checklists" to "Test-Taking Strategies" have all been included as well. The lists come formatted ready-to-use and photocopy.

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Click here to view this book in Amazon +

The Art Teacher's Book of Lists

Helen D. Hume, experienced artist and art educator, brings you this revised guide that has been updated to include more than 100 new lists, 350+ art project ideas, art history timelines, and reproducible handouts. The Art Teacher's Book of Lists is user friendly for veteran and novice art instructors alike. Use it as a quick reference for art history facts or as a planning guide for your instruction. Either way, this is a must-have in any art classroom.