8 More Picture Books to Share


Over the past month, we’ve explored the picture books on the New York Public Library’s list of 100 Titles to Read and Share.

While writing these book reviews I have definitely found some new favorites!

Here is the last set of picture book reviews. I was glad to see a trend of multicultural books in this part of the list.

Also, you will want to read my criteria for the book reviews, as well as the rating scale.

8 More Picture Books to Share | Book reviews for parents and teachers


#16 Pancho Rabbit and the Coyote: A Migrant’s Tale by Duncan Tonatiuh

Image4 Cheers!

This book was a conversation starter for my husband and me.

It is a beautiful story, told with complete simplicity. No drama, no politics, no pity, just a story revealing the true experiences of real people—EXCEPT there are no people in this book. All of the characters are animals. Rabbits, chickens, ducks, snakes, and a coyote. And what my husband pointed out is that having animals experience the terrible ordeal of crossing illegally from South to North makes the story approachable in a way that telling it outright wouldn’t be able to do.  Making the characters into rabbits wipes the slate clean. You don’t see race. You don’t see nationality. You see a father caring for his family and the dangers they face. Animals make us comfortable enough to approach the content feely, leaving behind all our human misconceptions. This book will appeal to adults and children for its warmth, its honesty, and the beautiful way the illustrations capture the characters’ thoughts.

 Pancho Rabitt and the Coyote Illustration



#17 Picture a Tree by Barbara Reid

Image2 Cheers

Creative interpretation, good repetitiveness for young children, but I didn’t love it.


#18 The Silver Button by Bob Graham


4 Cheers!

The Silver Button TItle PageReading this book is an act of embracing the celebration of the ordinary details of everyday life. Every sentence is a hasty beginning and ending of a new story. Quite possibly a story you find yourself in the middle of a hundred times a day.

“Oh High Street, Bernard had his shoelace tied for the second time that morning . . . and a man bought some fresh bread from the baker.”

A summation of the hummm-drumm seconds that make up a minute, in any city, in any family.

 The Silver Button My Favorite Page The SIlver Button Illustration




#19 The Story of Fish and Snail by Deborah Freedman

Image3 Cheers!

A fresh romp through the pages of a book-within-a-book!

Lots of dialogue, and most of the info comes through the illustrations.

 Fish and Snail Illustration

Fish and Snail PictureDive in!





#20 Take Me Out to the Yakyu by Aaron Meshon


3 Cheers!

Baseball fans will cheer for this fun book that takes place in 2 countries: the US and Japan. One boy takes us through the cultural highlights of his favorite game.

  Yakyu Japanese and American Foods


#21 This is the Rope: A Story from the Great Migration by Jacqueline Woodson


3 Cheers!

When you read this book, read the author’s note first and then dive into this family’s story of hope and change and progress.

This is the Rope Illustration


#22 Unicorn Thinks He’s Pretty Great by Bob Shea


No joke, this book is pretty great!

Unicorn Thinks He's Pretty Great CoverGoat is happy with his friends on the playground, until Unicorn shows up with his magical tricks. Packed full of illustrations that will make you smile, and a lesson that every grumpy goat needs.

 Cameo appearances by:

A piece of toast

A waste-paper basket

A plunger

A smiling lake

3 Cheers!

(3 and ½ for the piece of toast)



#23 Water in the Park by Emily Jenkins & Stephanie Graegin


2 Cheers

Nothing about this book struck me. I didn’t spend any time lingering on the page or anticipating the next word.


Next week we will dive in with Folktales and Fairytales!


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Yuyi Morales Celebrates 2014 Pura Belpré Illustrator Award


I just reviewed Niño Wrestles the World, and was thrilled to find this video. What a beautiful artist! At a great moment in her career, the best thing to do is . . . dance!

10 Picture Books to Share


Last week we looked at the first five books

on the New York Public Library’s list of 100 Titles to Read and Share.

Up next, #6 through #15!

10 Picture Books to Share


#6 Herman and Rosie by Gus Gordon


3 Cheers!


ImageImageJust enough story + just enough left up to the imagination.

My favorite line is,

 “It made him feel like he had eaten honey straight out of the jar.”


#7 How to Train a Train by Jason Carter Eaton


3 Cheers!

A step-by-step guide to your pet train. Delightful tips and tricks.

“Few trains can resist a good read-aloud.” 🙂




#8 Journey by Aaron Becker

ImageThis book gets 4 cheers!

Journey is a lovely blend of Harold and the Purple Crayon meets Where the Wild Things Are with its own unique magic. A girl having a lonely day draws a door in her bedroom wall, and the adventure begins! It is a celebration of imagination and friendship.ImageImageImage






#9 Knock Knock: My Dad’s Dream for Me by Daniel Beaty

This book is out of stock at all my local book stores and still on hold at the library . . . can’t wait to see what all the fuss us about! As soon as I read it, I will update this review 🙂





#10 The Matchbox Diary by Paul Fleischman

Image2 Cheers

I really wanted to love this book. The illustrations were nostalgic, and story of the Italian grandfather telling stories of his youth to his great-granddaughter struck a personal chord with my own Italian roots. But it lacked rhythm and emotion in a story that could have hit very close to the heart. I can easily imagine the kids being bored by the middle.

The adult in me enjoyed it and the child in me skipped to the last page to see how it all ended.



#11 Moonday by Adam Rex

Image3 Cheers!

The perfect bedtime book for older readers.

 Like any good “sleepy time” book it starts in wonder and ends in slumber.

If this isn’t enough to hook you, I don’t know what is:


 What would you do if the moon wandered into your backyard?

{On a side note, I want to know why Disney is the publisher.

 I’ve never seen that beyond tacky storybook versions of feature films.}


#12 Mr. Tiger Goes Wild! by Peter Brown

ImageThis book gets 4 cheers!

Loved it! I loved the style of the illustrations, I loved the use of dull and bright colors to tell the story, and I loved reading this book to my students.  They were riveted and full of giggles. As we read together, I asked them a bunch of questions about how the illustrations give us clues about the characters, the setting, and the plot. They had great insights, and enjoyed it thoroughly.

{For a guide to reading this book aloud with question prompts, see this post}


#13 My Cold Plum Lemon Pie Bluesy Mood by Tameka Fryer Brown

Image4 Cheers!


The jazzy rhythm of the text makes the words sway.  A simple idea that comes alive with color! Gives kids and parents a simple way to talk about what mood they’re in and what they’re feeling.



#14 Niño Wrestles the World by Yuyi Morales


3 cheers!

A recipe for picture book magic:

1 cup Monsters

¼ cup Older Brother Action

1 cup Spanish Vocabulary

a dash of various typefaces

Blend thoroughly for best results

Bake at a cosy 74° for 15 minutes

Serves: you and your little one Nino Wrestles the World


#15 No Fits, Nilson by Zachariah OHora


3 Cheers!

The kids in your life who have mastered the art of fit-throwing should definitely meet Nilson.

Tender writing and delightfully detailed drawings make this book a must read for high-charged children (and the adults who love them).



There are still 8 more picture books on the list– watch for them next week!

Interactive Read Aloud: How Do Illustrations Add to Our Understanding of the Story?


This week my third graders and I are taking a deeper look at STORIES, particularly at the clues that illustrations give us about the setting, the characters, and the plot. I was looking for picture books that would generate thoughtful discussion–fortunately we had a book fair last week, so I had several brand spankin new picture books! After reading Mr. Tiger Goes Wild! with the kiddos, it was obvious that this one was a perfect fit for the discussion I wanted.

How Do Illustrations Add to Our Understanding of the Story

Learning Goal: I can explain how illustrations add to what is written in a story.

Key Questions:

What clues do the illustrations give about the characters?

What clues do the illustrations give about the setting?

What clues do the illustrations give about the plot? (Can you make predictions based on the illustrations?)

FYI, these are the ELA Common Core Standards for Reading: Literature that this lesson meets:

1st Grade: RL 1.7 Use illustrations and details in a story to describe its characters, setting, or events.

2nd Grade: RL 2.7 Use information gained from the illustrations and words in a print or digital text to demonstrate understanding of its characters, setting, or plot.

3rd Grade: RL 3.7 Explain how specific aspects of a text’s illustrations contribute to what is conveyed by the words in a story (e.g., create mood, emphasize aspects of a character or setting).

We started by talking about our learning goal {I can explain how illustrations add to what is written in a story}.

QUESTION: What clues can we find to help us understand the CHARACTERS, especially Mr. Tiger?Mr. Tiger Goes Wild!Student responses included . . .

  • Mr. Tiger has his eyes open and everyone else has them closed.
  • The colors are dull except for Mr. Tiger.
  • Everyone looks posh.
  • Most of the animals are herbivores (I was so delighted with this observation by several of my students!). Mr. Tiger is different because he is a carnivore. Maybe this makes him more wild.

QUESTION: What clues can we find to help us understand the SETTING?

Mr. Tiger Goes Wild!

Mr. Tiger Goes Wild!We looked at many pictures throughout the book, and made the following observations:

  • He lives in a town or city.
  • It is very dull colored and boring at the beginning.
  • Guesses as to which city it might be included: New York City, Paris, and London. The kids guessed these cities mostly because of the pigeons. 🙂

QUESTION: What clues can we find to help us understand the PLOT?

Mr. Tiger Goes Wild!

The previous page says that Mr. Tiger has a wild idea . . . and then we turn to the picture of Mr. Tiger walking on all fours. No words. Just an illustration showing us what his wild idea was. I read it once without showing the picture (the kids agreed that there was missing information) and then again, this time showing them all the pictures. They understood so much more! (Just the learning moment I was looking for! ZING!)

Then we compared these two illustrations: one of Tiger being wild in the city and one of Tiger being wild in the wilderness. How are they the same? How are they different?

Wild Ideas 1Wild Ideas 2

Reading and talking about this book was a BLAST! The children were riveted. Success! Thanks to Peter Brown and Mr. Tiger.

What kinds of questions do you ask during read aloud?

And the First Category is . . . Picture Books!


NYPL’s 100 Titles for Reading and Sharing

This project is a perfect blend of two of my favorite things:

1. Lists     2. Reading

Couldn’t be happier 🙂 Let the reading begin!

For an explanation of my ratings, see here.

The LIST begins with picture books for children ages 2 – 6.



#1: Ah Ha! by Jeff Mack

Image3 Cheers!

Best for young readers and their parents, to be read in LOUD voices!

Join an adventurous frog in this story that uses only TWO letters.

The pictures tell the story–which makes it perfect for visual kids and parents alike.

Cleverly made and joyfully read aloud.


#2: Battle Bunny by Jon Scieszka & Mac Barnett


3 Cheers! A great addition to your at-home library.

This book was clearly designed with boys in mind!

It takes a simple woodland birthday story with mild characters and pastel pictures and transforms it into a rough and tumble delight.

Not only is the story an excellent romp, it also challenges the reader to follow both the underlying story AND the scribbled in bits.



#3: The Blessing Cup by Patricia Polacco


4 Cheers!

Any book by Patricia Polacco pulls at a certain chord in my heart that is attached to all the nice feelings of being at home and being loved and reading great books with my parents. My dad had shelves full of her books, and we spent hours after school reading them.

So I am already biased toward any story she writes.

The Blessing Cup is great for read aloud and older readers, as the length and vocabulary are more complex.

And what a great story for asking questions, like:

How do families face difficult changes together?

Who acted as a helper in the story? Do we know anyone like that?

What traditions does our family have to create hope in hard times?



#4: Flora and the Flamingo by Molly Idle


3 Cheers!

This wordless story will engage even young readers

(although be careful about little hands tearing the lift-the-flap features!)

A treat for all the tiny dancers.



#5: Hank Finds an Egg by Rebecca Dudley

2 Cheers

2 Cheers

Another wordless book, great for creating words and stories along with the child as you follow the pictures.

Nice photography, nice concept, overall a nice book, but it didn’t particularly grab my attention.



Find more new favorites here

Happy Valentine’s Day!


bookandbliss.comI am completely biased, but Valentine’s Day is probably best spent in an elementary school. There’s a party, and LOTS of card giving! Hearts and chocolate and innocence. I love it.

I also love to share stories. Here are a few of our classroom favorites this year:

1. Love, Splat by Rob Scotton. The illustrations are delightful and funny! There is also Splat the Cat: Funny Valentine, an engaging lift the flap book, perfect for younger readers (but not so much for 3rd graders).

2. Happy Valentine’s Day, Dolores by Barbara Samuels. This is a new favorite! I immediately bought my own copy. The story and pictures are very simple, and it was a spot-on tool for teaching character development. We also made a LOT of inferences using the pictures.


3. Valentine’s Day by Alice K. Flanagan. It was nice to add a NONFICTION book to our Valentine’s Day repertoire. Easily understood and lots of good vocabulary.

4. Valentine Hearts Holiday Poetry by Lee Bennett Hopkins. This I Can Read book is great for students to read on their own once they have heard it read aloud.

5. Arthur’s Valentine by Marc Brown. Classic.

Arthur's Valentine

Share the love! What are your favorite stories?

THE LIST: Upcoming Book Reviews in 2014


About a month ago, I happened upon a list. A book list. A children’s book list.


At the close of 2013, the New York Public Library released their 100 Titles for Reading and Sharing (you can find it here). Throughout the year I plan to read and share quite a bit from this list!

And thanks to my own nearby public library, I am up to my nose in books!

Each book review will include a rating. Here’s the system:


3 Cheers—This is a good book, definitely read it.

2 Cheers—This is an okay book.

1 Cheer—This is an even less okay book.

*cricket* —This  book didn’t make a splash. Spend your time elsewhere.

As you can see, these are rigorous standards. Ahem.

BUT I do have some basic questions that will guide my ratings (there is a method to the madness).

Elements To Consider

  • Can I make personal connections to the story? Is it meaningful?
  • Are the illustrations captivating?
  • Is the language interesting?
  • Is it fun? (Reading to children is nothing if it isn’t fun!)

As always, some books are wonderful because they are light, funny, and a rollicking good time while other books become favorites because they appeal to our artistic taste. Both kinds of favorites are welcome to me!