Anansi the Spider: A tale from the Ashanti by Gerald McDermott

Anansi the Spider: A tale from the Ashanti by Gerald McDermott


Publishing: Holt, Rhinehart and Winston, New York, 1972

Awards: 1973 Caldecott Honor

Description: Anansi the spider has six sons that are all good sons. They all have to come to his aid and rescue him when he gets into trouble, so when he finds a prize-a great globe of light-he is not sure which son should be rewarded. He gives it to the god of all things, Nyame, and when she sees them arguing over it, she puts it in the sky. It is still there-the moon. The illustrations are bold and geometric, almost tribal.

Programming: Have students point out Ghana on the map. Do a little bit of outside research about the Ashanti people and how they live before reading the story. Read other folktales, especially those that explain why something is the way it is, such asĀ Why Mosquitos Buzz in People’s Ears. Compare and contrast the tales.

The Village of Round and Square Houses by Ann Grifalconi

The Village of Round and Square Houses by Ann Grifalconi


Publishing: Little, Brown, and Company, Boston, 1986

Awards: 1987 Caldecott Honor

Description: A little girl is told the story of why the men live in square houses in her village and the women live separately in round houses. According to the girl’s grandmother, the people used to live in any kind of house they wanted, until Mother Naka (the volcano nearby) erupted to show her anger, and the only houses left from the destruction were one round and one square. The people took it as a sign and the chief told the women to go stay in the round house and the men in the square one, and it has been that way ever since, with both sides coming together for dinner.

Programming: This has a lot of really great scenes and explanation about the culture of the village (dinner procedures, order of respect, foods served, etc). Have students research this village or others and discuss how their practices are similar and different to ours and to other cultures. For example, respect is an important concept in many Chinese culture as well.

Free Fall by David Wiesner

Free Fall by David Wiesner


Publishing: Lothrop, Lee, and Shepard Books, New York, 1988

Awards: 1989 Caldecott Honor

Description: A boy falls asleep with a book and, through his dreams, falls into several fantastic settings with fantastic creatures.

Programming: Have students narrate the story, or explain what happens. Have them share their weirdest or funniest dreams. Have older students explain how they know this from the pictures-which details create the story. What are the characters like? How do you know? etc. Compare this book to Wiesner’s other works.

The Relatives Came by Cynthia Rylant, Ill. by Stephen Gammell

The Relatives Came by Cynthia Rylant, Ill. by Stephen Gammell


Publishing: Bradbury Press, New York, 1985

Awards: Caldecott Honor

Description: The narrator’s relatives leave their house when the grapes are almost purple enough to pick, but not quite. They pack up their car and drive many miles to visit. When they get there there is lots of hugging and laughing, and crowded sleeping arrangements. They go home again, and each part of the family is missing the other and dreaming of the next visit next summer.

Programming: Have students share experiences about family reunions or get-togethers. Do their families share a Sunday meal, how far away do their cousins live? etc.

Timothy Turtle by Al Graham, Ill. by Tony Palazzo

Timothy Turtle by Al Graham, Ill. by Tony Palazzo


Publishing: Viking Press, New York, 1949 (originally 1946)

Awards: Caldecott Honor 1947

Description: Timothy Turtle has a pretty good life, but he is sad because no one notices him. He wants to be famous and gets advice from the pines and the frog. He decides to go out and seek his fame by climbing up took-a-look hill. Not only is the climb steep and challenging, but he gets hit with a boulder and flipped over on his back. He rocks and rocks until he rights himself, continues his journey and makes it home a hero, vowing never to venture away from home again.

whimsical, somewhat outdated language (dunderhead, lament, etc), text forming pictures, rhymes, repetition (swimmingly, swimmingly, swimmingly, swim..)

Programming: Before reading, I would ask students what they think makes someone a hero, or brave. After reading I might have them list the qualities that make Timothy a hero. Because of the sing-song text of this book, I would also probably use it to segue into poetry in some way.

Fish for Supper by M.B. Goffstein

Fish for Supper by M.B. Goffstein


Publishing: The Dial Press, New York, 1976

Awards: 1977 Caldecott Honor

Description: The narrator describes the days when his grandmother goes fishing. The text and illustrations are both simple, with lots of white space. The illustrations are black and white line drawings inside a small black line border.

Programming: The narrator lays out the sequence of events of his grandmother’s fishing days. Print out the events on cards or slips of paper and have students arrange them in the correct order to practice the sequence of events. Show students how to fish and have a fishing game for sight words or spelling.

Harlem by Walter Dean Myers, Ill. by Christopher Myers

Harlem by Walter Dean Myers, Ill. by Christopher Myers


Publishing: Scholastic Press, New York, 1997

Awards: 1998 Caldecott Honor

Description: Walter Dean Myers writes about Harlem-the sights and sounds, the people in it, and most importantly, what it represents. Christopher Myers illustrates in evocative collages with rich texture and color.

Programming: Good for Black History Month in February. Langston Huges, Countee Cullen and James Baldwin are referenced, so students might explore each of those men and their works for further understanding and compare and contrast their styles and messages. They might need help putting some of Myers’ metaphorical message in context, but a good question would be, “Why does he make references to traveling and what does he mean at the end when he says, ‘A journey on the A train that started on the banks of the Niger and has not ended’ ?”