An Annotated List of Picture Books, Chapter Books, Videos, Songs, and Websites
Some of these materials have been edited and compiled here for your convenience from previous publications: Adventuring with Books, 12th Ed., pp. 506-544; 13th Ed., pp. 465-487; Talking Points 16(1), pp. 38-39; 16(2), pp. 30-32; 17(1), pp. 34-35; 17(2), pp. 26-28.
Reprinted with permission from the National Council of Teachers of English
Adams, Pam (2000, 2007) This old man. Child’s Play International. Picture Book. Ten old men in colorful outfits are featured with the text of this traditional counting song. Cut-out holes allow readers to predict the next man that will be seen.
Adoff, Arnold (2011) Roots and blues: A celebration. Illus. R. Gregory Christie. Houghton Mifflin. Picture Book. Arnold Adoff uses poetry and art to celebrate the history and culture of blues music in America. Famous blues performers are introduced in the second half of the book.
Allard, Harry G. (1977-89) The Stupids (Series). Illus. James Marshall. Trumpet Club. Picture Books. While in principle we might not approve of calling a family “Stupid,” the silly actions of this family support the name choice. For example, the Stupids take a bath without putting water into the tub because they don’t want to get their clothes wet. Their cat and dog drive the car while the Stupids sit on the roof. Children delight in explaining what the Stupids are doing wrong in each picture.
Altman, Linda Jacobs (1991) Amelia’s road. Illus. Enrique O. Sanchez. Lee & Low. Picture Book. Amelia and her family are constantly on the move from harvest to harvest. They live in labor camps for short periods of time and then they’re back on the road. Amelia fears that she will never have a place of her own but eventually she finds a special spot.
Ancona, George (1997) Mayeros: A Yucatec Maya family. Lothrop. Picture Book. The title Ancona chose reflects the name Yucatec Maya call themselves and sets the tone for his respectful and lively photodocumentary of the daily life of a Yucatec Maya family. We meet two young brothers, Armando and Gaspar, as well as their parents, sisters, grandparents and extended family as they prepare and eat meals, build a ring for a bullfight, and dance to celebrate the feast of saints. Though there is room to ask questions about history and economic disparity, this is not primarily a story of poverty or oppression. Rather, Ancona's lens portrays the life of the family as rich with tradition and resilient to change.
Ancona, George (2000) Cuban kids. Marshall Cavendish. Picture Book. This book provides a sympathetic look at the lives of Cuban children and presents an alternative to the typically negative image portrayed in the media. The book is a photo essay of snapshots from daily lives of children, with close-ups of a few. The photographs manage to make Cuba look both exotic and ordinary, so that students will notice differences while still recognizing that Cuban kids go to school, have friends and families, and like to have fun.
Angelou, Maya (1987) Now Sheba sings the song. Illus. Tom Feelings. Dutton. Young Adult. Maya Angelou gives voice to a powerful, sensuous poem about the spirit of Black women the world over. Tom Feelings’ sketches of Black women in America, Africa, South America, and the Caribbean islands grace each page.
Anzaldua, Gloria (1995) Friends from the other side/Amgios del otro lado. Illus. Consuelo Mendez. Children’s Book Press. Picture Book. Prietita befriends Joaquin, a “wetback (illegal alien) who is new to the United States. What is powerful about this picture book is that it shows a human side to this national controversy.
Aristophane (2010) The Zabime sisters. Trans Matt Madden. First Second Publishing. Graphic Young Adult Novel. M’Rose, Elle, and Celina are siblings who live in the Caribbean. The girls awaken to the delights of summer – catching crabs at the river, stealing mangoes, witnessing a fight between rival boys, and suffering the intoxicating effects of rum. The images offer glimpses into the personality of each of the characters as the story unfolds.
Asch, Frank (1982) Happy birthday, Moon. Simon & Schuster. Picture Book. When Bear thinks that Moon is sharing his birthday (via an echo that mimics everything Bear asks Moon), he buys Moon a beautiful hat.
Auch, Mary Jane. (2002) Ashes of Roses. Laurel Leaf. Young Adult. Irish immigrant Rose Nolan has high hopes when she arrives in New York in 1911. She soon learns that not everyone has her best interests at heart and life will not be easy. Her story chronicles many forms of abuse and ends with her narrow escape from the horrible fire that killed over 150 workers like her at the Triangle Shirtwaist Company. The book tackles tough issues like women's rights, workers’ rights, and class discrimination.
Aylesworth, Jim (2001) The tale of Tricky Fox. Scholastic. Picture Book. Tricky Fox makes a bet with his brother that he can trick a human into giving him a pig and he will bring it home in his sack. He begs his way into homes and tricks the owners into putting something better into the sack than what he maintains was lost. This ruse works well until he encounters a teacher who figures out what he is doing and puts a ferocious bulldog in his sack.
Banks, Lynn Reid (1985) The Indian in the cupboard. Illus. Brock Cole. Doubleday. Chapter Book. The Indian in the cupboard is a controversial book about a young man, Omri, coming of age. Although the book portrays American Indians in ways that many Native Americans have found offensive, this text is still widely read in middle school classrooms and can be used to support readers in taking on a critical perspective and understanding the perspectives of others.
Banting, Erinn (2003) Afghanistan, the people. Crabtree. Picture Book. This book has colorful pictures, but was not written by someone with an insider’s perspective on Afghanistan.
Banyai, Istvan (1995) Zoom! Viking. Picture Book. This wordless picture book re-creates a camera lens zooming out. One illustration shows a boy on a cruise ship, the next shows him from a distance, and the next reveals the whole ship. As the camera lens moves further back, we see the ship is actually on a poster, and the poster is on a side of a bus. As the perspective continues to recede, what seemed visually predictable becomes surprising and new. This is a good book for beginning conversations about perspective.
Barakat, Ibtisam (2007) Tasting the sky: A Palestinian childhood. Farrar, Straus, & Giroux. Picture Book. This is the story of a child’s shattered childhood during the Six Day War between Israel and Palestine. Although Ibstisam is temporarily separated from her family, she goes on to lead a more or less normal life and is excited by school, using chalk, learning the Arabic Alphabet, and meeting a teacher who appreciates her for whom she is.
Barasch, Lynne (2005) Ask Albert Einstein. Farrar, Straus, & Giroux. Picture Book. Inspired by actual events, this is the story of how a seven-year-old girl wrote to Albert Einstein, the most famous scientist in the world at the time, for help with her sister’s math problem. Albert Einstein wrote back and answered her question with a sketch that is left for the reader (as well as the sister) to interpret in order to understand his answer.
Bartholomew, Sandy Steen (2010) Totally tangled. Design Originals. Nonfiction. A zentangle is a complicated looking drawing that is built one line at a time into a pattern that evolves in unplanned ways. The originators of this art form see it as leading to meditation and relaxation. This small volume contains hundreds of patterns beginners might try out before they start designing their own patterns.
Bartoletti, Susan Campbell (1999) Kids on strike! Houghton Mifflin. Chapter Book. Are children being exploited today in ways similar to how they were exploited during the Industrial Revolution in the USA? Bartoletti's historical account of children in the workforce is complemented by hundreds of authentic, gripping photographs of children at work on city streets, in coalmines, and in the garment industry. The images of the children and descriptions of their inhumane working conditions will raise questions about human nature, progress, and American economic values.
Barwell, Ysaye (1998). No mirrors in my Nana’s house. Illus. Synthia Saint James. Harcourt. Picture Book w/ CD. The CD contains the spiritual on Side 1 and a voiced rendition of the song on Side 2. Nana’s house has no mirrors to reflect her granddaughter’s clothes that don’t fit, or the things that she missed. When the granddaughter views the world through Nana’s eyes, she sees only love and beauty, not poverty and racism.
Beckwith, Kathy (2005). Playing war. Illus. Lea Lyon. Tilbury House. Picture Book. Luke and his friends like to play war by throwing pinecone “grenades” at each other. They change their minds after a new boy tells them about how his family was blown up in a real war. This book provides an opportunity to talk with children about the painful realities of war.
Bellairs, John (1975) The figure in the shadows. Dial. Chapter Book. This is one of three books in a series. The others are The house with a clock in its walls and The letter, the witch and the ring. The series opens as Lewis Barnavelt, ten years old, comes to live with Uncle Jonathan. Little does he know that Uncle Jonathan and his neighbor, Mrs. Zimmerman, are witches. Lewis finds that he too has supernatural powers which thrust him into battle between good and evil.
Bellairs, John (1993) The letter, the witch and the ring. Perfection Learning. Chapter Book. (See Bellairs, 1975 for an annotation).
Bellairs, John (2004) The house with a clock in its walls. Perfection Learning. Graphic Novel. (See Bellairs, 1975 for an annotation).
Bennett, Cherie & Gottesfeld, Jeff (2004) A heart divided. Delacorte. Chapter Book. After finding herself caught up in the tensions surrounding the flying of the Confederate flag at their school, Kate, a recent Yankee transplant, decides to write a play using the voices of the students she interviews as the text. One of the most powerful aspects of this book is that Kate’s play provides readers with a demonstration of what they might do to address similar complex issues in their own communities.
Benson, Kathleen & Haskins, Jim (2006) Count your way through Afghanistan. Illus. Megan Moore. Millbrook. Picture Book. This book is one in a series that teaches readers how to count in another language, in this case Pashto. While it was not written by someone with an insider view, students might enjoy learning to count in one of languages frequently spoken in Afghanistan.
Berger, Barbara (1984) Grandfather twilight. Philomel. Picture Book. Grandfather Twilight takes nightly walks in the woods carrying a pearl that becomes the moon when he releases it. This gentle tale responds to our need for story to explain everyday events that seem magical.
Bernier-Grand, Carmen (2007) Frida: Long live life! Illus. Frida Kahlo. Marshall Cavendish. Picture/Poetry Book. Carmen T. Bernier-Grand’s biographical poems and Frida Kahlo’s paintings capture the intensity and passion that made Frida Kahlo, Diego Rivera’s wife, stand out as a twentieth century painter.
Bernier-Grand, Carmen (2009) Diego: Bigger than life. Illus. David Diaz. Marshall Cavendish. Picture/Poetry Book. Through a series of biographical poems, Carmen T. Bernier-Grand tells Diego Rivera’s story of becoming a world-renowned muralist who was famous for being passionate, political, and controversial.
Birdseye, Debbie, & Birdseye, Tom (1997) Under our skin: Kids talk about race. Photographs by Robert Crum. Holiday House. Chapter/Picture Book. Six 12- and 13-year-olds speak in their own words about their perceptions and experiences of race in America. They describe their own ethnic traditions, their experiences of racism and prejudice, and their ideas and hopes for race relations in America. This focus on kids' individual voices provides a great starting point for discussion of how students experience the impact of race and ethnicity in their own lives.
Birtha, Becky (2005) Grandmama’s pride. Illus. Colin Bootman. Albert Whitman. Picture Book. In 1956, two young African-American girls visit their grandmother and through her example come to understand how to maintain dignity and self-respect despite the deep and abiding injustices of Jim Crow laws that maintained social and racial segregation.
Blue, Rose & Naden, Corinne J. (2009) Ron’s big mission. Illus. Don Tate. Dutton. Picture Book. This is the story of how Ron McNair as a nine-year-old boy desegregates his public library through peaceful resistance and grows up to be a scientist and astronaut on the Challenger space shuttle.
Booktrust (2006). Education resources, Illus. Anthony Browne.
The Booktrust is an independent national charity in Great Britain that encourages people of all ages and cultures to discover and enjoy reading. This web page gives all kinds of useful information about Anthony Browne—awards, a short biography, influences on Browne’s illustrations, classroom links, and professional articles.
Booth, Coe (2007) Tyrell. Perfection Learning. Young Adult. “You don’t hardly get to have no kinda childhood in the hood.” At 15, Tyrell is trying to keep his little brother in school and safe in their roach-infested shelter in the Bronx. His mother is in trouble with the welfare agency, his father is in jail, and Tyrell is caught in the middle trying to do what is right. This book provides an all too realistic look at street life in the big city.
Boyne, John (2006) The boy in the striped pajamas. David Ficking Publisher. Chapter Book. Bruno, a nine-year-old, is raised in a German household of privilege. His father, a member of the Nazi party is sent to supervise a prison camp, part of Hilter’s Final Solution. Bruno is curious and makes friends with one of the prisoners, a nine-year-old Jewish boy named Shmuel. Bruno decides to crawl under the fence to explore what life is like for Shmuel and is caught up in the political forces of the times. This book provides a unique addition to Holocaust literature.
Bradbury, Ray (1953) Fahrenheit 451. Ballantine. Young Adult. This dystopian tale of a world where books are illegal is told through the voice of a loyal citizen who lacks a critical perspective and doesn’t understand what is going on. While Bradbury wrote the book as a critique of American culture in the 1950s, there is much to remind readers of difficult contemporary issues as well.
Bradby, Marie (1995) More than anything else. Illus. Chris Soentpiet. Scholastic. Picture Book. This is the story of Booker T. Washington learning to read. As a boy he works in the salt mines and longs to have the magic of reading to pass on to others. When he sees a man reading, Booker talks the man into teaching him to unlock the magic of words and after much work is able write his name in the dirt. This is an uplifting tale of perseverance.
Bray, Libba (2009) Going bovine. Delacorte. Young Adult. Cameron, a 16-year-old slacker is reading Don Quixote when he is diagnosed with mad cow disease. Although the book is written so that one is constantly questioning reality, the heart of the story is hallucinatory: Cameron’s quest is to find Doctor X who can cure him as well as solve the ills of the world. Along the way Cameron meets Sancho (his Mexican-American dwarf bedmate), Dulcinea (a pink-haired angel), and a much-maligned yard gnome. Together they escape from the evil clutches of a happiness cult, materialism, and a new breed of culture clones shunning individual thought. As in Don Quixote, lots of important questions come up along the way, forcing the characters (and readers) to clarify their values and to take a stand.
Breathed, Berkeley (2008) Pete & Pickles. Philomel. Picture Book. Pete is a perfectly predictable pig until a runaway circus elephant named Pickles enters his life. Pickles is larger than life and overflowing with outrageous ideas. Using imagination, Pete and Pickles pretend they are doing exciting things like swan diving off Niagara Falls and sledding down the Matterhorn. In the process, they both change. While on the surface a cute little story, there are many stereotypes perpetuated in this book including women as capricious (or even delusional) and men as selfish and lacking emotion.
Breckler, Rosemary (1996) Sweet dried apples: A Vietnamese wartime childhood. Illus. Deborah Kogan Ray. Houghton Mifflin. Picture Book. This story is told from the point of view of a young Vietnamese girl whose life is changed by the encroaching war that surrounds her. What starts out as a distant threat gradually comes to encompass her family and her life. This book invites conversations about the different forms social action can take and how this action affects people's lives.
Bridges, Shirin Yim (2002) Ruby’s wish. Illus. Sophia Blackall. Chronicle. Picture Book. Although girls living in China in the early 1900s had limited opportunities for what they could do or be, Ruby’s intelligence and desire to learn caused her family to envision a different future for her. The story both challenges and respects tradition.
Brisson, Pat (1998). The summer my father was ten. Illus. Andrea Shine. Boyds Mill Press. Picture Book. Every year while planting their garden together, a father tells his daughter about how he learned an important lesson from a mistake he made when he was ten years old. Because his neighbor, Mr. Bellavista, seemed strange, he thought it would be funny to use the vegetables in his garden as baseballs. After apologizing and helping with the garden the next summer, he had a lasting friendship and a love for gardening.
Brown, Marcia (1971) Cinderella. Atheneum. Picture Book. In this version of the old French fairytale there is no mean stepmother, Cinderella’s foot is anything by dainty (a triple EEE at least), and in the end she gives her stepsisters a home in her palace. Even if purists have trouble with the storyline, the illustrations are absolutely wonderful and tell a parallel story quite different from the one that is written.
Browne, Anthony (1986) Piggybook. Knopf. Picture Book. Mrs. Piggott gets no help around the house from her unappreciative husband and sons so she leaves a note saying “You are pigs” and disappears. Without Mom around to take care of them, the boys and their father gradually do turn into pigs; she finds them “rooting around” for scraps when she finally returns to check on them. After that, she stays—but everyone helps with the cooking and housework.
Browne, Anthony (1995) Willy the wimp. Walker. Picture Book. Willy is tired of being teased and sends away for a bodybuilding book. Charles Atlas he is not, but in the end he strikes up a companionship that lasts.
Browne, Anthony (1998) Voices in the park. DK Publishing. Picture Book. This book features four gorilla characters that dress and act like humans. The author used a different font for each character and structured the text so that each speaks from the first person in telling his or her version of what transpired in the park one day. This is a story about social class; it recounts the interactions of two families when they were in the park at the same time. One family consists of a bossy wealthy mother and her rather shy son. The other is a despondent out-of-work father and his outgoing young daughter. Readers are confronted with issues of prejudice and cultural stereotypes.
Browne, Anthony (2000) Willy and Hugh. Red Fox. Picture Book. Willy is used to being bullied, but his new friend Hugh is big and tough. Together they form the perfect team and in the process overcome their individual fears.
Browne, Anthony (2000) Willy’s pictures. Candlewick. Picture Book. Willy creates his own version of some of the great masterpieces of art in the world. In doing this, he teaches budding artists how they might push their artistic talents to new heights by creating works that build off the masters but have their own unique artistic signatures.
Browne, Anthony (2001) Through the magic mirror. Walker. Picture Book. Toby is bored with all of his toys and books, but when he walks through the magic mirror, everything changes.
Browne, Anthony (2004) Into the forest. Candlewick. Picture Book. In this version of Little Red Riding Hood a young boy awakens from a stormy night to find his father missing. On his way to grandmother’s house he encounters several characters from other fairy tales and finds a red coat, thus making his transition to Little Red Riding Hood complete. The story alludes to absentee fathers at the beginning, but it ends happily.
Brumbeau, Jeff (2000) The quiltmaker's gift. Illus. Gail de Marcken. Scholastic. Picture Book. A generous quiltmaker "with magic in her fingers" sews the most beautiful quilts in the world, then gives them away to the poor and needy. A greedy king, whose storehouse is filled with treasures, yearns for something that will make him happy. Although he is sure a quilt will do it, the quiltmaker refuses, saying she will only make him a quilt if he gives everything away. Through helping others the king finds his own happiness.
Bryan, Ashley (2007) Let it shine: Three favorite spirituals. Simon & Schuster. Picture Book. Bryan uses large construction paper cut-outs to illustrate the underlying meaning and significance of three well-known spirituals, "This Little Light of Mine," "Oh, When the Saints Go Marching In," and "He's Got the Whole World in His Hands.” Teachers will find the brief history of spirituals on the last page of the book well worth sharing with their classes.
Bryant, Jen (2009) Ringside 1925: Views from the Scopes trial. Yearling. Young Adult. This novel allows readers to take a ringside seat at one of the most controversial trials in American history. J. T. Scopes, a science teacher in Dayton, Tennessee, is arrested for having taught Darwin’s theory of evolution. Jimmy Lee, Pete, Marybeth, and Willy are thrilled as suddenly their teacher and their town is the center of national publicity. In the circus-like atmosphere there is tension not only in the courtroom but among friends. The novel invites readers to consider socio-political forces at work as well as the role of science in advancing knowledge.
Bunting, Eve (1990) How many days to America?: A Thanksgiving story. Illus. Beth Peck. Clarion. Picture Book. After a hazardous adventure by sea, a Caribbean family arrives in the United States on Thanksgiving Day. This is not only great to read at Thanksgiving, but a wonderful addition to discussions on immigration, illegal aliens and what action we as a nation should or should not take.
Bunting, Eve (1991) Fly away home. Illus. Ronald Himler. Clarion. Picture Book. The narrator of this story is a boy who lives with his father in an airport. He begins by saying that they don’t have a home and “the airport is better than the streets.” Readers learn that the main goal of people living in an airport is not getting noticed. The boy and his father always have to be on the move in order to stay in crowded locations. Although they have made friends with other homeless families who are doing the same thing, there is a sense of hopelessness about their situation until the boy sees a trapped bird finally escape from the airport.
Bunting, Eve (1993). Red fox running. Illus. Wendell Minor. Clarion. Picture Book. A starving red fox searches for food to take back to the den. This story of the hunt is told in verse that captures the desperation of the situation and positions the fox as a caring parent. It provides a counter narrative to stories showing foxes as selfish and/or sneaky animals.