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January 17, 2012 The Schoolies — Best Picture Books of 2011 By Jeremy Brunaccioni
Grades PreK–K

    So it’s that time of year, when the “best of” everything from movies to shoes are reviewed and presented with awards. Since the last movie I saw was Good Will Hunting and I usually just wear sneakers, I’m sticking with picture books. There were so many fantastic books published this year, it’s a challenge to pick the best for the classroom. I’m going to give it a shot. Let’s call them "The Schoolies." And the award goes to . . .


    Written and Illustrated by Harry Bliss

    In this sure-to-crack-them-up tale, your students will be treated to a school day with Bailey the dog. There are plenty of speech and thought bubbles to inspire students in their own writing. The humor will certainly not be lost on kids or adults, with lines like “That is one good looking stick” and “Try not to lick anyone today.”


    I Can Help

    Written and Illustrated by David Hyde Costello

    Farrar, Straus and Giroux

    I have reviewed I Can Help once before, but it’s that good! You couldn’t ask for a better book for teaching kids about kindness and cooperation. The easy-to-follow text and subtle humor make this a book that your students will want to hear over and over.

    Follow duckling as he tries to make his way home with the help of some animal friends. With a few animal costumes, your students can easily act out the story, adding to the enjoyment with dramatic play. You can also try my writing prompt as an extension activity.


    Over and Under the Snow

    Written by Kate Messner

    Illustrated by Christopher Silas Neal

    Chronicle Books

    So I need to start off by saying, kudos to Christopher Silas Neal! He has done a wonderful job creating a retro feel for this title, using a simple color palette and great graphic design. Your students will be drawn to this book for its story as well. Over and Under the Snow follows a father and daughter as they ski, commenting on the wonders of nature. Filled with descriptive lines such as “Deep hoof prints punch through the crust, up the hill, under a tree,” this title is great for kicking off a unit on descriptive words.


    Nothing Like a Puffin

    Written by Sue Soltis

    Illustrated by Bob Kolar


    With a hint of humor, Sue Soltis has channeled Margaret Wise Brown’s classic, The Important Book. Students will get a kick out of following the antics of a puffin while learning the basics of some common objects. This is a great book for identifying the characteristics of objects and comparing. I have to agree with Ms. Soltis, “Indeed, there is nothing like a puffin."



    Written and illustrated by Oliver Jeffers


    Stuck is just plain funny. When Floyd gets his kite stuck in a tree, he tries to retrieve it by throwing a shoe at it. And a cat, a ladder, a bucket of paint, a duck, a chair, a bicycle . . . Well, you can see where this is headed. (Don’t worry about the cat and duck. It’s strictly tongue in cheek, or cat in tree, as the case may be.) By the end of the story, Floyd has his kite back, but the tree is full of everything down to the kitchen sink. The story definitely has a "Rattling Bog" feeling to it, and again, super illustrations! You can check out the trailer here.


    Themed Frames Activity

    This project was inspired by one of the moms at school. Thanks, Nicole! Choose a book to base a themed frame on. Collect items that go with the story and glue them to a frame or mat board.

    The button frame in the photo above goes with Joseph Had a Little Overcoat. Try gluing pasta for Strega Nona, bread tabs for Everybody Bakes Bread, or fabric swatches for The Quilt.

    You can find cheap cardboard frames at your local craft store or send home a request for frames. Try this link if you want to order them online. You will probably want to take the glass out to avoid any mishaps.


    Looking for another way to display children's artwork? Try reclaiming some old wndow frames. Make sure the glass is gone before adding eyehooks and hanging them from your wall. 




    If you have other themed frame ideas, I’d love to hear them. Have fun!


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Susan Cheyney