One tradition we’re starting with our friends with kids this New Year’s Eve is to do a “White Elephant”-style book exchange with the favorite kids’ books we read this year. Here are some of our favorites. What are some books you would you have chosen?
Hello, Hello by Brendan Wenzel
This book was written by the same author that wrote the Caldecott Honor Book They All Saw a Cat. It uses beautiful illustrations to compare animals by their colors, shapes, patterns and habits. The book includes over 90 animals; including several that are endangered, threatened and vulnerable. It pushes creative connections to see how seemingly unrelated animals can be connected.
We like to give this book to friends with babies as a unique book that can grow with them. I started reading this with my own son when he was still a baby focusing on the animals and colors. As he’s grown, we talk about patterns, shapes and comparisons. The language and rhyme scheme is simple enough for emerging readers to start reading on their own.
Sam and Dave Dig a Hole by Mac Barnett
Sam and Dave Dig a Hole tells the story of two boys, Sam and Dave, who decide to dig a hole. They set out with a canteen of chocolate milk and a handkerchief filled with animal cookies, and decide to keep digging until they find something “spectacular”. As the characters dig, they keep changing directions just as they are inches away from discovering bigger and bigger diamonds. It concludes with an ambiguous twist.
We love this book because it’s a simple concept connects with so many age levels. The language and general plot are simple enough for younger readers. Older kids are excited about the concept of digging holes and wonder how realistic it would be to find gems if they dug. It helps set up STEM-related self-directed inquiry to learn what they would really find if they were able to dig a big hole. We like to couple it with the non-fiction book The Street Beneath My Feet that we wrote about here. I’ve even used it in my high school classroom as an example of dramatic irony. There is a twist on the final page that makes me keep reading it. Is it nothing, or is it something really big? I’ve seen at least 6 different theories speculating what that final page means.
Story Orchestra: Four Seasons in One Day by Jessica Courtney-Tickle
Music is often an overlooked part of providing deep reading comprehension skills. This book combines music with visual literacy in a unique and beautiful way. Each page is an illustrated interpretation from the original score from Vivaldi’s Four Seasons. Kids press the button and they can hear a 10 second clip of the music.
It can be difficult for students to identify the vocabulary to describe what they hear in music. This book helps students take the initial leap by illustrating the classical music. Describing what they see helps them articulate the sounds of the music. The sound of violinists plucking the strings plucking the strings sounds like icy rain outside the window. The bouncing rhythm sounds like a horse trotting through the countryside in autumn.
Turn this Book into a Beehive! And 19 Other Experiments and Activities That Explore the Amazing World of Bees by Lynn Brunelle
Too often when kids are learning something, it can be very abstract or not related to their lives. We like this book because it creates real connections. While we usually think about bees as something to be avoided, this book uses fun illustrations and scenarios to give kids a real understanding of how we need bees as part of our food supply.
The book uses fun facts about bees: their wings move at 11,400 strokes per minute to make a buzzing sound, a bee’s sense of smell is 100 times more powerful than a human’s, combined with activities for kids to understand how bees move, pollinate, and communicate We like that kids can use what they learn and do something physical with it. At the end of the book there are some decorative pages that kids can use, along with the book cover, to create a hive to support Mason Bees, a non-stinging, super pollinator.
The Wonderous Workings of Planet Earth: Understanding our World and Its Ecosystems by Rachel Ignotofsky
Studies show that to create life-long learners, it is important to have a home filled with a variety of books. While we check out a rotating selection of fictional books from the library, we have been careful to choose an assortment of high-quality non-fiction books that our son can reference and re-read throughout the years.
We were excited to add The Wonderous Workings of Planet Earth: Understanding our World and Its Ecosystems to our own home library. This book has the depth of an academic earth science book, but uses illustrations and is written in an accessible way that kids will be drawn in and actually want to read it for fun. It explores a variety of ecosystems ranging from one as small as a drop of water or a rotting log to the Himalayan Mountains, the Great Barrier Reef, and the Arctic Circle. It concludes by discussing human-created habitats like farms and cities, how humans have impacted nature, and ideas to protect our planet.