Monday, January 05, 2009

The Not-So-Random Shelf: Picture Book

Happy New Year! Hope you had a great holiday.

It’s a shame that picture books are sometimes neglected when a child begins to read easy readers or easy chapter books. There are fabulous and sophisticated picture books that many elementary children will appreciate and enjoy, such as The Greatest Skating Race and Togo.

The Greatest Skating Race is an exciting and memorable story of Dutch children’s bravery and skill during the Second World War. Piet dreams of participating in the famous Elfstedentocht, a 200 kilometer skating race in the Netherlands. His strong skating skills enable him to help two young children escape to Belgium after their father has been arrested by the Nazis (for listening to Allied broadcasts). An encounter with Nazis nearly leads to failure, yet the children manage to talk their way past the Nazis.

There’s a lot to take in: Louise Borden weaves in information about skating history and the Elfstedentocht along with the story. The length of the story and the vocabulary makes this appropriate for third grade and up.

Balto is famous for running the last leg of the 1925 serum run to Nome, but many Alaskans believe that Togo, who led his team over 350 miles, has been neglected. Robert J. Blake has created a haunting and gorgeous picture book account of Togo. This small and headstrong puppy wasn’t expected to grow into a courageous sled dog, but Togo soon became known as the fastest sled dog in the area. His speed and leadership, along with his master’s skill, were called into play when diphtheria struck Nome.

The stark Alaskan winter and the stamina and eventual exhaustion of the dogs are perfectly evoked through the book’s thrilling text and illustrations. This is a mesmerizing book suitable for K-2 students.

Picture book fans need no introduction to Jan Brett. Honey…Honey…Lion! is a great read aloud for preschool and kindergarten students. Honeyguide and Badger have always been friends in their search for honey. Unfortunately, Badger decides that he’s not in the mood to share. A mad Honeyguide pretends to lead Badger to another hive, but it’s actually a lion’s den! This is a funny read aloud that gets its message across without browbeating the audience.

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