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There are certain books that can just open the mind to great horizons. Books can be entertaining and at the same time become great teachers. Here are some outstanding picture books that stimulate and motivate one to enjoy learning. The following picture books might just awaken the genius in kids ages nine and above (unless otherwise noted).
The Great Grammar Book, by Jennie Maizels, and cleverly illustrated with vivid color, pull tabs, spinning wheels and much more interactive ingenuity by Kate Petty, is one of the most innovative books I’ve seen to help kids understand the parts of speech. Each open page focuses on a major part of speech. It begins with nouns and features a story that has tabs to open when you come upon a noun. The open page for verbs features a brilliantly colorful ocean and beach. A large wheel to turn is filled with movement signifying action verbs. What a terrific way to learn the major parts of speech!
Look, by Fiona Woodcock, takes a deep look at words featuring “oo’s”. The word “food” features two eggs that replace the “oo’s”. The word “zoom” has the race car in between the consonants making the tires become the “oo’s”. There are two siblings heading to the zoo who encounter “oo’s” on their way and inside the zoo and back home again. The brilliant illustrations were made of hand-cut rubber stamps. Be sure to check out the end-pages where there are continuous letter “o‘s”.
Big Words for Little Geniuses, by Susan and James Patterson, and illustrated with Adobe Illustrator and Photoshop by Hsinping Pan, teaches children by using big and different words. What a lovely way to enjoy learning and using new words. There are twenty-six long and unusual words defined, a pronunciation key and vibrant colors filling each page. Words like: “Volitant” and “Quokka”. These interesting (and most likely new) words will have the alphabet represented beginning with a word that begins with A and ending with Z. There are even more new words found at the back. This surely will make geniuses out of all of us!
The Great Dictionary Caper, by Judy Sierra, and illustrated with great originality and done digitally by Eric Comstock, is truly a celebration of our rich English language. Words in the Webster Dictionary are bored. All they do is sit inside the book “day in, day out.” They are ripe for escape and that is just what they do in a most expressive way. As they breakout of the book you see each letter that spells skate have roller skates on and the letters that spell truck ride in the back of the truck except the letter “k” drives the truck. The words are about to begin their parade of happiness. So, begins the onomatopoeia marching band. The letters spelling “boom” show loud explosions and the letters spelling “crash” each seem a bit broken. Mr. Webster is finally able to put these words back inside his book, but not before the reader better understands their meanings!
Idea Jar, by Adam Lehrhaupt, and nicely illustrated with gouache, pen and ink by Deb Pilutti, is an excellent book designed to help jump-start stories. There are many ideas to inspire stories to put into the idea jar: dragons, tigers, robots and more. But when the jar becomes over-crowded, the ideas pour out into the classroom. This actually helps the stories more become robust and interesting.
Interrupting Chicken and the Elephant of Surprise, by David Ezra Stein, is another hilarious story promoting well written stories. His first book, Interrupting Chicken, has the same characters with papa reading stories to his little chicken. In this story, the little chicken tells her papa about how she learned all about “the elephant of surprise” in school. She wants to hear all about that elephant in stories papa will read. This humorous book actually promotes “the element of surprise”. The engaging artwork was done with watercolor and water-soluble crayon.
This is Not a Normal Animal Book, by Julie Segal-Walters, and illustrated with much humor and rendered in ink, crayon and digital color by Brian Biggs, showcases the importance of the collaboration between author and illustrator in picture books. It also demonstrates the emphasis of a strong storyline. The theme has an animal and proposes a possible outcome if something extraordinary happened to that animal. For instance, it begins with a cat. “If the cat laid an egg…” You turn the page to see that it would then become a hen. The artist soon begins to disagree by writing aside his rendering and it all escalates from there. There will surely be many giggles along with the awareness of what’s being taught in this delightful book.
A Busy Creature’s Day Eating, by Mo Willems, is a very clever way to learn beginning letter sounds. A purplish creature begins the book by eating apples, then berries, cereal and finally donuts. But when he gets to “F” he seems to be at a quandary of what to eat. So, what does he end up eating? Furniture! The rest of this delightfully funny book continues on in this vein where he eats food but sometimes diverts to some unusual non-food as he eats his way through the alphabet. This is great fun for ages four and up.