Every single page of Niroot Puttapipat’s version of The Nutcracker is absolutely breathtaking. The story is succinct and familiar, so I will focus this post on the beautiful illustrations! The character appear as silhouettes against beautiful, ornate backgrounds. The scenes are set in a way that resembles the ballet on stage.
Each page captures elements of fantasy and adventure that are central to this well-known tale.
The story culminates in a stunning 3-dimensional pop-up cut out that is like nothing else I’ve seen in picture books.
This book is the perfect gift for kids ages 3-7. It presents many opportunities to discuss the beautiful details that adorn each page. Click here to purchase a copy of The Nutcracker (affiliate link).
Bear Stays Up for Christmas by Karma Wilson is another fantastic holiday picture book. It’s wintertime and Bear is hibernating, but his friends wake him up. They are all determined to spend Christmas together. Mouse, Hare and Badger and all his friends do their best to keep Bear busy so that he stays awake.
Together they pick out a Christmas tree and bring it back to Bear’s lair. Then they get to work decorating it. Bear’s friends make snacks and sing songs as they wait for Christmas morning to come.
Bear Stays Up is a wonderful read for kids ages 3-6. The integration of rhymes and repetition of the line “But the bear stays up” will engage readers and have them reading along.
Click here to purchase a copy of Bear Stays Up (affiliate link).
Real Friends by Shannon Hale is a memoir about the author’s own experience navigating friendships in elementary school. This graphic novel perfectly captures the highs and lows many young girls experience in their upper elementary years in school, trying to find real friends who accept us for who they are. It’s a delicate balance of understanding and acceptance along with being true to yourself.
One of the most powerful lessons I learned about friendship in middle and high school was that just because someone was your best friend at one point in time does not mean they will be your best friend forever. That being said, just because someone is no longer your best friend, does not diminish the important role they played in your life and vice versa at that time.
As an elementary school teacher working with 4th graders, I wish this was a lesson I could just transfer to my students, particularly the girls, through osmosis. I watch it happen each year and know that other than encouraging students to be kind to one another, even as their friendships drift apart at times, it’s something they have to experience for themselves.
One powerful characteristic of the protagonist Shannon is her willingness to branch out and make new friends even though time and time again it does not work out well. She keeps putting herself out there and learns to stand up for herself and what she believes will be fair.
Shannon learns that friends can act one way one-on-one and then treat you differently when they are around other peers, particularly when popularity and clique behaviors are at play.
Real Friends has a powerful message. It teaches about hope and resilience during a difficult time in the transition from childhood to adolescence. It does not sugar coat the complex emotions kids feel and how important friendships become to them in their everyday lives.
I would recommend this books for students in grades 4-7. Real Friends is a level S text. Click here to purchase a copy of Real Friends by Shannon Hale (affiliate link).
Sharing the Bread by Pat Zietlow Miller is story of a very old-fashioned and traditional Thanksgiving. The story is set at the start of the 19th century and follows a family preparing a Thanksgiving feast. Every member of the family has an important role. Mama fetches the cooking pot. Daddy prepares the fire. Sister prepares the dough for bread. Narrated by the youngest child this story is written in four-line rhyming verse with repetition that makes it easy for young readers to follow.
The illustrations are beautiful and consist of muted and earthy tones. Browns, blues and greens dominate the pages but in a fantastic way, bringing the text to life.
Sharing the Bread highlights the importance of family and collaboration. This book is ideal for readers ages 4-8.
Click here to purchase a copy of Sharing the Bread (affiliate link).
The Littlest Pilgrim by Brandi Dougherty is the story about Mini, the smallest Pilgrim in her village. Though she is small, Mini tries to be helpful. Everyone is either too busy to notice her or tells her she is too little to help. She goes from being optimistic to feeling sad that nobody wants her help.
Mini doesn’t give up! She collects some berries and begins to head home when she sees another girl standing at the edge of the forest who is small like her. Mini reaches out to her and ends up making a new friend.
The Littlest Pilgrim is a sweet story about not giving up even though others do not believe in you. It’s a story about friendship and remaining optimistic. Great for kids ages 3-6.
Click here to purchase a copy of The Littlest Pilgrim (affiliate link).
Turkey Trouble by Wendi Silvano is a humorous picture book about a turkey who is determined not to become the main course of the Thanksgiving dinner. He decides that if he does not look like a turkey, then perhaps Farmer Jake and his family will not recognize him. He disguises himself as a horse. His costume isn’t bad. He looks like a horse… almost. But then Cow recognizes him! Grumbling and sad that he’s been identified, Turkey gets a new idea… to dress up like a cow. He looks like a cow… almost!
Turkey tries costume after costume, but each time he is recognized! When all his plans seem to have failed, Turkey comes across the vegetable garden and just then he has an idea! One that is sure to save his life.
As a vegetarian, I’m particularly entertained by this story, though I feel sorry for Turkey and definitely sense his anxiety and disappointment each time his cover is blown. This is a book that kids are bound to love, laughing at Turkey’s different costumes and guessing what he might dress up as next.
Turkey Trouble is great for kids ages 3-7. Click here to purchase a copy of Turkey Trouble (affiliate link).
Bear is feeling lonely in his cave and he wants to prepare a feast for his friends. But, his cupboards are bare. One by one Bear’s forest creature friends arrive each with a delectable contribution to a wonderful meal. To each friend, bear says thanks.
Suddenly, Bear feels sad that he doesn’t have any food to contribute. His friends hug him tight and tell him that everything will be okay. In fact, Bear has his stories to share!
Bear Says Thanks by Karma Wilson is a story about friendship. This is a wonderful picture book for young readers, ages 3-6 as it teaches the importance of coming together and being grateful for what you have.
Mama Witch is busy making a special treat for her Picky Little Witch. A witch’s brew filled with all kinds of awful ingredients, from eye of newt to hair of slug. The list goes on and on across several pages, each more disgusting than the last. The Picky Little Witch mimics the reader’s own thoughts, yuck, gross and even barf! She comes up with many different excuses why she can’t try the witch’s stew, but Mama Witch has a clever solution for each one. Eventually, the Picky Little Witch tries the stew and to her and our surprise, she actually loves it!
Then it’s time for trick-or-treating! Mama Witch watches the Picky Little Witch collect all kinds of goodies. From candy apples to licorice snakes. As the Picky Little Witch’s excitement mounts so does Mama Witch’s disgust. The Picky Little Witch encourages her mom to try some of these delectable Halloween treats, and she refuses, much like her daughter earlier in the story. She offers up many excuses, but her daughter refutes each one. Talk about role reversals. Mama Witch ends up loving the sweet treats as much as the Picky Little Witch loved the witch’s brew. In the end, they learn that trying new things isn’t all scary.
The Picky Little Witch by Elizabeth Brokamp is great for kids ages 5-8.
Marceline is a young witch who wonders why all the witches are collecting pumpkins one day. She goes to her grandmother’s house to find out what is going on and sees that her grandma also has a pumpkin. Overwhelmed and confused, she begins to cry. Her grandmother tenderly reassures her that everything is okay and explains that the witches are preparing for Halloween!
Hallo-What? is a great introductory book that explains what Halloween is, including the origin of the different Halloween customs. It is a sweet story that is perfectly not scary for young children. Once she understands what Halloween is, Marceline and her friends dress up and go trick-or-treating. (With adult supervision, of course!)
Hallo-What is great for kids ages 5-8.
Halloween is… by Gail Gibbons is a wonderful all about Halloween book for young readers. This non-fiction book explores the origin of many common aspects of Halloween from trick-or-treating to jack-o-lanterns. Readers can learn about how different Halloween traditions have evolved over time.
The headings make it easy for a reader to navigate the text and identify the parts he/she wants to read. The illustrations support the text to promote understanding. I always tell young readers that the difference between fiction and non-fiction reading is that non-fiction informational texts do not necessarily have to be read from beginning to end.
Gail Gibbons is a phenomenal, prolific non-fiction writer for young readers. Halloween Is.. is just another staple in any 1st-3rd grade classroom library.