Tonight was me marathoning picture books and sorting them into four piles: baby/toddler storytime picks, preschool and above, books that are still good but not for storytime (a nebulous category for sure), and books that aren’t really my style. It kind of feels like splitting atoms to put wonderful books into conventional categories, but I’m focusing on their use. This post featuring the preschool and above storytime picks is a big post, so I’m foregoing my matrix to highlight four different titles.
The first title is one that I have been dying to read since I heard about it in October from Penny Peck: The Wheels on the Tuk Tuk written by Kabir Sehgal and Surihiha Sehgal, and illustrated by Jess Golden. Ever wondered what “The Wheels on the Bus” looks like in India? This cute and humorous story includes a tuk tuk (a shared taxi that serves as the bus), rupee, wala, namaste-ji, cow, yogi, chai, poppa-doppa-doms, elephants, and Diwali. I think my favorite page is when the “Tuk Tuk yogi chants ‘Om-om-om, om-om-om, om-om-om’…all through the town.” The song is recognizable, and the illustrations are large enough that it’s easy to watch the tuk tuk toodle about town. It’s easy to make the argument that both the repetition and vocabulary adds to background knowledge and encourages the imagination. While I’m not sure I’ve found an audience where I can use this story, I will keeping looking!
My second pick for this week is another take on a less familiar but still recognizable story: The Three Triceratops Tuff by Stephen Shaskan. Even though this story was published in 2013, as soon as I saw it on the shelf today, I knew I wanted it. Dinosaurs are dynamite for preschoolers of both genders, and this comic take on a Tyrannosaurus Rex who wants to eat our heroic Triceratops Tuff and learns a lesson about picking on dinos of his own size. The colors are gorgeous and the illustrations are a good size for a small to medium group. I also think that because the telling is pretty true to “The Three Billy Goats Gruff”, kids will easily be able to recognize and predict the pattern, making it perfect to tie in as an early literacy title. And let’s be honest: I will always pick cartoon dinosaurs when I can for storytime!
Perhaps these were the titles that caught my eye today, because my third pick fits in with playing with expectations. The book is Beautiful, written by Stacy McAnulty and illustrated by Joanne Lew-Vriethoff. This is a newer title that addresses an issue I first read about from A Mighty Girl: calling young girls cute or beautiful teaches them to value physical beauty from an early age, and it’s fair better to compliment them on their intelligence, leadership skills, humor, etc. Beautiful takes that philosophy and illustrates it in a fantastic way by taking old chestnuts like “Beautiful girls know all about makeup.” by showing two girls playing pirates, complete with drawn on stubble and curling mustaches. The girls of this story play in the mud, get dirty, play sports, conduct science experiments, because as the back cover says: “It’s about
your clothes, your hair, your style WHO YOU ARE.” What a fantastic message, and the humorous illustrations make me believe it would be good for boys and girls! I recommend this for an older preschool audience, one that can understand the underlying message between the words and the pictures (probably needs to be judged on an individual audience basis).
My last title for preschool storytime picks is Goodbye Summer, Hello Autumn by Kenard Pak, which would be good for late summer/fall storytime (Captain Obvious strikes again!). I picked this up immediately because of the gorgeous, colorful illustrations that feature a young girl greeting various critters, objects, and phenomena as the world transitions from summer to fall. While the font is not very large, due to the text’s brevity, it still works for storytime, and some pages feature good specific vocabulary that work for background knowledge. Another feature of this book that I like is the opportunity to make the jump from the girl’s observations to what the kids know, such as when the girl greets the thunder would be a good time to ask kids what noise thunder makes.Another opportunity would be to have the group provide an answer to the question posed on the back cover: “How do we know that autumn is coming?” While the illustrations are not gigantic, they do fill the page and could work with a small group or an older audience especially.
Overall, these stories are great for expanding the worldview of kids, and while I recommended it for preschool and above, I also caution you to know your storytime audience. In my limited experience, it’s easier for a group to appreciate a simpler story than struggle with a confusing one, but I’m always looking for an opportunity to bring in interesting titles. I’ll come back and report later when I try one of these out!