|A first grade top ten list of favorite books|
Our dynamic group of first grade children displayed an admirable love of books, both fiction and nonfiction, giving us educators great reason to celebrate. I am also thrilled that all twelve books read by the Broadway Books First Class visitors appeared on the children's lists, even if just four of them made it to the final count. That is a testament to the power of my fledgling program and motivation to continue this work in the coming years.
Students complied individual lists from the many books we read together during the 2015 - 2016 school year and a master list was constructed using a simple tally system to track the titles. Our final catalog contained favorites from years past, some novel additions and some surprises.
We had the great privilege of listening to the book read aloud by its coauthor Devlin Elliott. His smooth delivery - full of joy and patience - provided the perfect welcome to usher the children into Mabel's rapscallion ways. Devlin appeared to get as much enjoyment from sharing the book as the delighted children took in watching.
Naughty Mabel has that magical blend of humor and heart present in the best children's books. Fantasia wrote her opinion about the book as such, "I love Naughty Mabel because Mabel is funny and cute! That's why I love Naughty Mabel."
It was wonderful to distribute signed copies of the book to the students during Devlin's visit and watch them giggle while turning the pages. In the end, love saves the day.
|Photo Credit: Kim Weild|
The charm may rest in the fact that we share this book towards the end of our Greek mythology study. Suddenly, all of the gods and goddesses the students know so well are introduced as children.
Young Zeus along with his brothers and sisters are underdogs who must set the world right against all odds. They struggle with authority. They are siblings who fight with one another. They are playful, headstrong and uncertain.
As seen through this lens each first grade child can relate in a way that was simply not possible before. They see themselves and their struggles mirrored in the characters. Plus, there is an epic battle with a satisfactory conclusion and what child doesn't enjoy that?
Mylo writes, "I like the book Young Zeus because Zeus saves the day. Young Zeus is brave and nice to people and helps people."
I use it to kick off the study into Greek mythology because Medusa is such a thrilling character. In this version, she is playful and taunting while tempting Perseus to take a peek into her evil eyes.
Medusa inspires children into deliciously creative art projects and drawings. The tale of Medusa and Perseus is played out in the school yard and talked about in hushed whispers during choice time. The story ignites the imagination and this retelling by Jean Marzollo sets the stage beautifully for the 6-year-old crowd.
|Miguel reading Let's Go, Pegasus!|
Dark, yes, but somehow endearing.
There is definitely a "Whew!" factor surrounding the inclusion of Franklin Goes to the Hospital by Paulette Bourgeois and Brenda Clark.
I worked for months with Broadway Books First Class visitor Oneika Phillips to find the right book to fit her theme of injury and healing.
It seems that our research and stubborn determination not to settle for anything less than perfection payed off.
Franklin encapsulates the message that, "Being brave means doing what you have to do, no matter how scared you feel". It wasn't lost on the children as evidenced by Adonis who writes, "I like this book because he is brave".
This is the only true chapter book on the list. It tells the story of Elmer Elevator, a clever young boy who travels to a far away island to rescue a baby dragon from his cruel captors.
We read one chapter every day, which took two weeks to complete. At the start of each new chapter we'd ask the children to recap what took place in the previous chapter so they all had an opportunity to play with summarizing and retelling. These are both areas in need of attention in first grade.
Sadly, we did not have an opportunity to read the other two books in the series but in my optimistic heart I envision boys and girls asking mommies and daddies to provide copies and assistance with the challenging words throughout the dog days of summer.
Aron writes, "I like the part when the alligators got in order then all the animals got together" and Gabby writes, "I love My Father's Dragon because it has a happy ending".
To top it off, it was read to us by Broadway royalty Alison Fraser!
It is a story about creating something extraordinary out of the ordinary. The lasting message pertains to beauty and innovation and how those ripples change lives forever.
Zuni writes, "I like The Night Gardener because I like how it is designed and I like that this tree is an owl. I like the part when the boy saw the tree."
|Zuni's art inspired by the cover of The Night Gardener|
This book is cleverly illustrated in a film noir fashion with the orange carrots standing out against a black and white landscape. It tells the hair-raising (or hare-raising) tale of Jasper Rabbit as he grapples with his paranoia. Are the carrots out to get him or is it simply his imagination?
The small details in the outstanding illustrations are both humorous and scary. It is the perfect book to read to young children at Halloween but it really works at any time.
We created some of our own creepy carrots using construction paper and googly eyes. Adorable!
Samara writes, "I like the book Creepy Carrots because the carrots are funny. They have funny faces. I like when Jasper the rabbit eats a lot of carrots in the carrot field."
|Jasper Rabbit and the Creepy Carrots|
These classroom traditions help build continuity and community.
Phillip writes, "I like this book because it is funny and it is fun and he is cute".
The Stupids Take Off by Harry Allard and James Marshall derives its humor from the fact that the family's last name is Stupid. Therefore, they live in the Stupid house, ride a Stupid plane, etc. The name is also extremely fitting as they have an unusual (i.e. stupid) take on things with plenty of low-humor sight gags.
In first grade children love to tell on each other for using inappropriate language (e.g. "Komden just said the "S" word!") The "S" word in their minds is stupid, not the word your adult mind might expect. So, to see it repeated again and again in a book is very taboo and very, very thrilling for a child.
Still, we used this simple book as a mentor text in one of our writing units to show how an author makes use of features such as bold print, sound words and repetition.
There is an element of suspense that students found entertaining. It reminds me of that scary story that was popular when I was a boy wherein the monster slowly creeps closer and closer to your bedroom (i.e. Johnny, I'm on the first step! Johnny, I'm on the second step! etc.).
It looks as though this gem will remain in our lesson plans next year.
Ricky writes, "I like One Stormy Night because it has animals and rain. I like rain because rain helps plants and flowers".
It is a strange little book that inserts vampires into the traditional Dick and Jane stories of the 1930s.
This compilation of collected stories are only about a page or two long each so we would read it in-between lessons or just before the children lined up for lunch.
It is more proof that children are wildly humorous and up for a bit of fright. Mikayla writes, "I love Dick and Jane and Vampires because I like how they run away".
I will never tire of them.
Finally, George O'Connor and his Olympians Series deserves a mention. The graphic novels appeared on every list but because there are so many titles, one specific title did not gain enough votes to put it into the top.
Thank you to all the children's book authors and illustrators who make teaching and learning so much fun. Hats off to you all!
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