Publishing: Roaring Brook, New York, 2011
Description: a great-granchild tells the story of his Grandpa Green, from his birth, catching chicken pox, stealing kisses, and experience in the war to the grandpa he is now. At the end he says that he can’t remember everything now, but the garden remembers it for him, thus the topiaries. This is such a heartwarming story that I almost burst into tears. Illustrations are mostly white and green, but are still enigmatic and help tell the story.
Programming: Time and age are difficult concepts for children. I would start by asking them to talk about their relatives-grandparents, aunts and uncles, even parents, anyone older-and see if they know anything about what their relatives were like when they were little. This story illustrates that all of these people had lives before the children came into existence, and that every person has a story to tell. If this is a class, it would be wonderful to have them ask a relative to tell them a story about their childhood or bring in a picture of a relative when they were young.
Publishing: Roaring Book Press, New York, 2010
Description: A monkey is reading a book and a donkey (referred to as a jackass) is confused because the book is nothing like his electronics: it does not make noises, require a password, have wifi, etc. Finally, the donkey borrows the book and gets sucked in. I appreciate the point he’s trying to make about digitization taking over our lives, but I just don’t see the point in calling the donkey a jackass. I understand the humor and play on words at the end, but I’m not sure as a parent I would show this to my child.
Programming: If I were to use this book with students, which for me is a big if at this point, I would probably start by showing around some electronic devices and asking what they can do, followed by showing them a book and asking what it can do. I would point out that books can do something better-they tap into imagination. I might even create an activity where they would have to imagine a scenario and tell me what happens next.
Publishing: Viking, New York, 2007
Description: Scieszka and Smith have teamed up to write seven stories about the friendship between an octopus and a cowboy. The stories contain the same offbeat humor found in The Stinky Cheese Man. The story line might not be quite as strong, but I think kids will still appreciate the humor and take away the morals hidden within it. The illustrations appear to be done as a collage, with cartoon-like images of the octopus and cowboy, but real pictures of items such as the baked beans and lettuce. The endpapers even complete the theme with one page of dusty brown symbols for the cowboy and one page of blue sea shells for the octopus.
Programming: This website does a better job of providing thorough teaching connections than I ever could.
The Stinky Cheese Man and Other Fairly Stupid Tales
Publishing: Viking, New York, 1992
Awards: Caldecott Honor
Description: This book is hilarious. Even the cover and endpapers buck traditional storytelling, and I was laughing from the moment I opened it until the moment I closed it. Scieszka and Smith have created several anti-fairy-tales that are extremely entertaining to read. They utilize every aspect of the book, from font size and placement to the end papers and title page to continue their theme. Even the author’s bios on the end flap are humorous. I only feel sad that I did not read this book sooner. This will definitely go on my top 100.
Programming: This would be good to read after reading some of the traditional tales, such as Jack and Beanstalk and the ugly duckling. Have students compare how the versions are different. I’m still brainstorming other programming ideas…suggestions welcome…