And the list of mentor text is building! I'm starting to become more selective, but still, occasionally picking up a few books that are outside of my writing interest. Many of these bring out the kid in me and make me laugh.
When my list is complete, I will compile a master list that will make finding details for each of the text easier. Until then...I hope this is inspiring you to pick up a picture book and keep writing!
31.THE IRIDESCENCE OF BIRDS: A BOOK ABOUT HENRI MATISSE by Patricia MacLachlan Illustrated by Hadley Hooper Roaring Brook Press
WHY: I’m sure I’ve said this before, I’m a huge Patricia MacLachlan fan. Off the top of my head, I can’t think of a single book that’s she’s written that’s disappointed me. If Patricia were an option for one of those BuzzFeed quizzes, I’m 100% positive we’d be a match.
WHAT: Patricia made a wise decision to tell this from 2nd POV. By putting the action into the hands of the reader, we are pulled along with Henry as he matures. “Would it surprise you that you would grow up to be a painter?” The plot is precise. She builds Henry’s inspiration one small step at a time, until finally he is filled with all he needs to become the great painter he became as an adult. (surrounding him with colors, tapestries, pigeons still lifes etc.) Patricia included a quote from Henri Matisse in the author’s note “My mother loved everything I did.” Again, it’s wonderful how authors are using one or more of the subjects actual words to spring board an entire concept for a book.
HOW: There are so many wonderful things to use as a mentor text in this book. One of my favorites though, is the transition between the “child” character and his “adult” self. Whether Patricia or Hadley made this decision is unclear but the page that defines this clearly is on page 30/31 of 40 the way when Henry is on the left side of the ladder and his older self is on the right page. As a teacher, I would use this book to introduce of our personal narrative writing.
32. IVAN, THE REMARKABLE TRUE STORY OF THE SHOPPING MALL GORILLA by Katherine Applegate Illustrated by G. Brian Karas 2014
(Narrative NF/PB/3rd POV/Endangered Animals-history of captivity-Gorillas-love of learning)
WHY: As a reader who loved THE ONE AND ONLY IVAN, I couldn’t pass up reading this book! In fact, a week ago or so, when I started picking up piles of PB for ReFoReMo, I handed this to a reluctant reader in my classroom. She loved it. I told her about THE ONE AND ONLY IVAN. She wanted to read it too, and is now involved in reading what may be one of her first MG chapter books. Hooked!
WHAT: Again, I keep noticing the simplicity of theme. Even though this book is a narrative of the journey from Africa to a mall in America and eventually to his home in the sanctuary of a zoo, Katherine still maintains the picture book form and keeps the theme of “loving to learn” consistent throughout.
HOW: I almost can’t see the two companion books separately now. If you loved one, you must read the other. But I would also recommend using this book in classrooms as fuel for debating topics of animal endangerment, role of zoos and captivity.
WHY: Another PB biography took me in and enlightened me! I can easily see that it would do the same with an upper elementary reader.
WHAT: Leda Schubert has successfully highlighted the key points essential to understanding Marcel’s transformation into the world-famous mime, Pip. I especially liked the range of his abilities as Leda presents them in opposites: joy/sadness, tree/fish etc.
HOW: There are many PB techniques evident in this book that make it an excellent mentor text. At the beginning, alliteration is used when Leda describes Marcel’s actions as a child. The “simplicity of history” is a plus in PB biographies. And the author’s word choice to describe his actions as a mime are precise and perfect. This book is a must for anyone writing biography to check out!
34. BIG MEAN MIKE by Michelle Knudsen Illustrated by Scott Magoon 2012 Candlewick Press 2012
(PB/3rd POV/Bullying-unlikely friendship-acceptance-carshows)
WHY: BIG MEAN MIKE is the kind of title I could see hordes of elementary boys gravitating toward.
Mean? Big? and a bad car on the cover? All point to elements of success!
WHAT: The predominate boy-appeal made me pick this up, but the fun MC, Mike, kept me reading. I love how the author, Michelle Knudsen, uses mean, bad, words to emphasize a distinct voice in the story. (Mike’s growling and stomping are hysterical!) The humor of the recurring bunnies is so unexpected; it maintains it’s “page turnability.”
HOW: Writer’s looking for mentor text that use repetition, establish a clear voice and have wonderful themes should check this one out. I would love to sit with a group of 2nd graders and read this and then have a discussion about what they thought. (I might...I’ll update the post once I do!) The idea that the bunnies might be now “bullies” too is one I’d like to test with kids. What do they think about Mike abandoning the bunnies? Who changed who? And what did they learn? Michelle doesn’t come straight out and state it, but I think it’s clear at the end.
35.RIBBIT by Rodrigo Folgueira Illustration Poly Bernatene 2012 Alfred A. Knopf
(PB/3rd POV/Unlikely friends-acceptance-language barriers)
WHY: Again, this is one I picked up simply because of the title and the cover image. The one word, RIBBIT! paired with a cute little pig sets up the problem for the reader before we even get a chance to turn the first page.
WHAT: What DIDN’T I like about this book? -- It ended? It doesn’t have a sequel? I don’t have a stuffed piglet that says “Ribbit” when I hug it? When I finish my 100 books, I believe this will still remain one of my top 10. The simple story of acceptance and friendship, the humor of the mixed up languages of animals, and the asides from the frog community all add to the depth of this little book.
HOW: One of the best writing hints I take away from this book is Rodrigo’s use of the conversations had by the frog community. It’s a perfect “Show don’t Tell.” By hearing exactly what the frogs think instead of describing only the action, he puts us into the story, letting the reader play all parts. This is very important in picture books for children. In a class of 25+ students, each reader brings something different to their understanding of the story. One may be like piglet, and another may be a frog. In the end, Rodrigo succeeds with a solution for them all.
36.VIVA, FRIDA by Yuyi Morales 2014 Roaring Book Press
(Biography/PB/1st POV/dreams-creativity-self-expression/Bilingual text)
WHY: Frida Kahlo is and has been a hot topic for children and adult readers for a while now. In the past, I’m sure writers weren’t quite clear how to bring the expressiveness and uniqueness of Frida to a child’s level, but this book is a great example of how a difficult topic/subject/personality CAN be expressed and given life in books for children.
WHAT: I love the expressiveness of the singular, powerful verbs Yuyi uses. Also, by choosing first person narrative, it replicates a voice that I feel mimics that of the Frida Kahlo I’ve studied and learned about.
HOW: This text uses barely 50 words (if that). Yet, it’s incredibly successful in establishing voice, theme, and follows a plot arc. It all comes down to the RIGHT word.
37.MISS BROOKS LOVES BOOKS! (AND I DON’T) by Barbara Bottner Illustrated by Michael Emberley 2010 Alfred A. Knopf
WHY: I want to cross-out “MISS BROOKS” and write “MRS. CAVENY”… but alas… Just as I can relate to the title from the adult perspective, I’m sure many of my students could fill the shoes of the MC, child.
WHAT: What I love about this book is how it makes ME feel. It’s personal. I love books. It’s often difficult to understand how/why a child doesn’t. But the struggle is real from both perspectives. I’ve seen when I student finds and finishes that first book that they really loved. It’s the best moment! I’ve also have friends who have never known that joy. Libraries of 1000s of books aren’t the solution. Adults willing to listen and guide children to the books are. [Soap-box...over!]
HOW: Barbara Bottner uses a stream of adjectives to describe the books that other kids in the library share: “too flowery, too furry, too clicky, too yippity.” I love this repetition in PB. It changes the pace while at the same time gives the reader necessary information to add to the problem or help with the solution. In my own stories, I’m looking at plot points that seem too slow. In these spots I might consider adding rhyme or repetition, two writing devices that can advance the story and pick-up the pace.
38. BETTY BUNNY LOVES CHOCOLATE CAKE by Michael B. Kaplan Illustrated by Stephane Jorisch 2011 Dial Books for Young Readers
(PB/3rd POV/food-patience-strong will-family-school)
WHY: Food-themed books have really started to fill the shelves lately. Whether it’s the “Cupcake Wars Effect” or a resurgence in baking thanks to Pinterest, kid MCs are eating a lot of baked goods and pizzas!
WHAT: I love the MC’s obsessive behaviors when it comes to what she loves. Every child I know is like this. Whether it’s a super-hero obsession or a hit song, children love “things” with passion!
HOW: Using this book as mentor text really helps me as a writer to think about how I can build the tension in my PB manuscripts. The predominant thoughts of chocolate cake intensify until Betty breaks down. How can I bring that same level of intensity to other themes/situations?
39. NIGHT SONG by Arik Berk Illustrated by Loren Long 2012 Simon and Schuster Books for Young Readers
WHY: Anyone who has ever read Janell Cannon’s STELLALUNA has a soft heart forever with baby bats. While STELLALUNA is a story about the fragility of young ones on their own, NIGHT SONG runs more along the lines of a nonfiction narrative.
WHAT: Chiro is cute and charming, but the most endearing part of this book is the way he “discovers” his “sense” of echolocation. Echolocation isn’t an easy concept for young children. This story is a great place to start!
HOW: Thinking in big themes: HOW can the same approach used in this book, be applied to seeing colors? How our ears work? Touch? Arik Berk thought outside of the box in his novel approach. As writers, we are constantly searching for the novel way to tell a story. (And don’t worry--there are 1000s of ways to look at the same subject!)
40. YOU WILL BE MY FRIEND! by Peter Brown 2011 Little, Brown and Company
(PB/3rd POV/friendship-strong willed-loneliness-uniqueness)
WHY: As I’m preparing this post, I realized, “This character in another book!” Hurray! I LOVE her (as most readers will). The directness of the title, commanding us to be her friend, struck me immediately as hilarious! I know this girl…
WHAT: The MC, Lucy bear, is another girl who is a strong-willed personality. And like many like her, she has a difficult time making friends...which leaves her lonely. There is such a sweetness that Peter Brown uses to tackle this difficult theme, that the reader can’t help but root for her. With each page turn, we hope she finds that friend. But as we know, it isn’t easy. I won’t spoil it for you, but I loved this book.
HOW: Since I’ve already read a few books that have similar characters and themes (RIBBIT; BRONTORINA and even BIG MEAN MIKE) I would like to take the time to compare them side by side. Each struggle making or keeping friends, each learn that differences shouldn’t separate you from liking someone. All four MCs also have their own setbacks that other’s don’t understand. As a writer, I like playing with these characteristics with new variables. Try it out!
Other books I’ve read that are on the ReFoReMo recommended reading list:
WOLFIE THE BUNNY by Ame Dyckman Illustrated by Zacharia O'Hora
THREE NINJA PIGS by Corey Rosen Schwartz Illustrated by Dan Santat
SAM AND DAVE DIG A HOLE by Mac Marnett Illustrated by Jon Klassen
LLAMA MAMA RED PAJAMA by Anna Dewdney
THE BOY WHO HARNESSED THE WIND by William Kamkwamba and Bryan Mealer Illustrated by Elizabeth Zunon
ME WANT A PET by Tammi Sauer Illustrated by Bob Shea
ALL THE WORLD by Liz Garton Scanlon Illustrated by Marla Frazee