Raymond, G. (2012). 3-minute j.r.r. Tolkien. New York, NY: Metro Books.
Gary Raymond’s 3-Minute J.R.R. Tolkien is a great informational resource for any Tolkien enthusiast. This book provides background about the life of the author, recurrent themes and motifs explored throughout his work, and other related texts in the realm of fiction or fantasy. Not only is this book great for fans of the renowned author, it is a great resource to use in the classroom. J.R.R. Tolkien’s works have become more prevalent in schools today. Since time has passed after his death, his works are beginning to be seen as classic works. In particular, Tolkien’s The Hobbit is being incorporated into the modern middle school curriculum. Major emphases in middle grades studies of literature include author studies, recurrent themes, and text-to-text connections; Gary Raymond’s work provides the teacher or instructor with all of these backgrounds. This text would be useful not only to supply the teacher with information to be used during instructional periods, but it would also be a great source for any student conducting a personal inquiry into the life and literature of this famous writer. From Tolkien’s early life, to the effect his work had on texts such as Harry Potter and The Chronicles of Narnia, Gary Raymond’s 3-Minute J.R.R. Tolkien is a great informational research for any reader or learner seeking more in depth revelations about the life and work of the man who who changed the face of fantasy literature for years to come.
Ita, S. (2011). The odyssey: A pop-up book. New York, NY: Sterling Publishing Company.
Take one look at Sam Ita’s The Odyssey: A Pop-Up Book, and you will know that it is no ordinary picture book. This book combines many of my favorite elements; it is a picture book, a graphic novel, and a traditional Greek classic. Each page is a feast for the eyes as the colorful artwork and comic strip panels depict the story of Homer’s classic, The Odyssey. This work was originally handed down orally; now the pages of this work of art are literally bursting with visual and textual literature. Many people do not consider pictures literature, but reading The Odyssey: A Pop-Up Book will convince you otherwise. Though the illustrations, pop-up pieces, and speech balloons are plentiful, they do not distract from the original work. Each of these modern elements combine to enrich and supplement this oral tradition that can be difficult for young readers to follow when read with text alone. I would show this book to any student because it is a work of art in every sense of the meaning. The pages of this book come alive with beautiful words and pictures that excite the reader. Another reason I would use this picture book in the classroom or with my own children is because it exposes them to many different types of literature at once. This book is one part classic, one part pop-up, and one part graphic novel; all of these elements combine to make this book an engaging and interactive experience like none other. Sam Ita’s work is one that I personally desire for the shelves of my own personal library because I have never seen anything like it. I love this work, and I would love to share it with young readers. Sam Ita’s The Odyssey: A Pop-Up Book is a unique experience for any reader, young or old.
Young, E. (2004). The sons of the dragon king: A Chinese legend. (1st ed.). New York, NY: Atheneum Books for Young Readers.
Ed Young retells an ancient Chinese legend in his picture book The Sons of the Dragon King: A Chinese Legend. As this ancient story goes, the legendary Dragon King had 9 sons. Each son was very different from each other and had a difficult time discovering his own talents. One day the Dragon King visits each of his 9 sons individually. After observing their natural talents, he gives them a job doing what they are best at. One son protects the city, one oversees food preparation, and yet another presides over religious ceremonies. Each son’s role is equally unique and equally important to the well being of society. To this day, depictions of the Dragon King’s 9 sons can still be seen protecting and aiding society in some way. Tiao-Tu protects the people’s homes and businesses; Ya-Zi oversees military expeditions; Pu-Lao adorns musical instruments, and Ba-Sha watches over waterways. This Chinese adventure teaches young readers that everybody is different; this is not a bad thing, rather it is a gift! Each person can use his or her own talents to help others. Along with the moral and storyline found within this picture book, the illustrations capture the attention of the reader from the moment they pick up the book. These illustrations feature traditional Chinese depictions of the ancient Dragon King and his 9 sons. It also shows the reader the Chinese lettering and symbolic representations of the 9 sons. Ed Young’s The Sons of the Dragon King: A Chinese Legend gives the reader a window into the legendary tradition and customs that still affect life in Chinese society today.
Brandenberg, A. (1969). The eggs. New York, NY: Pantheon Books.
Aliki’s The Eggs is a retelling of a classic, Greek folktale. As the traditional story goes, a hungry ship captain one days docks his boat and has a meal of four eggs at a local inn. While he is eating a storm begins to stir, and the captain is forced to run to his boat without paying for his meal. After 6 years at sea the captain feels guilty for his unpaid debt; he returns to the inn to pay for his meal. What he fins at the inn however, is shocking to him. The inn keeper demands the man pay 500 dollars for his unpaid meal; this will certainly mean the captain will lose his beloved boat. The inn keeper’s argument is that with the 4 eggs the man ate, he could have saved them and let them hatch instead; he complains that he could have had a whole farm full of chickens right now if the original 4 eggs would have been allowed to multiply! Their dispute goes to court, and the captain’s lawyer makes a strong argument. Fried eggs can not hatch any more than cooked beans can sprout and grow if planted in the soil. The captain is allowed to keep his boat, and the lesson is learned to not try to cheat other people. This is an enjoyable read because it gives the reader a taste of Greek culture and literature. Many children in America are familiar with Aesop’s Fables, but introducing them to the moral lessons of other cultures shows the reader what values are held by other groups of people. This is a great lesson not only in morality but multiculturalism as well. I truly believe one of the greatest ways to share and explore unique cultures is through the participation in its art and literature; Aliki’s The Eggs brings its reader in contact with the culture, tradition, and literature of Greece.
Demi. (2001). Gandhi. New York: Margaret K. McElderry Books.
Demi’s Gandhi is a biographical picture book about the renowned civil rights activist and peacemaker for whom the book was named. This work features an insightful, although abridged, story of Gandhi’s life. The plainly written text accompanied by the fanciful illustrations make the complicated subjects that arise throughout the book easier for young readers to understand. Demi’s work is a great way to inform young readers not only about Gandhi’s life but also about the history of civil rights and peaceful protest in the previously British-ruled India. Though this picture book is far from a complete biography of Gandhi’s life, it makes the young reader aware of some of the most important aspects of the pacifist’s peaceful mission on earth. Gandhi by Demi is not only an informative text but a tribute to the peaceful and loving life of Mahatma Gandhi.
Brown, D. (2004). Odd boy out: Young Albert Einstein. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company.
When anyone hears the name “Albert Einstein” they usually picture one of the world’s greatest thinkers. They think of his contributions to science, his surpassing genius, and his accomplishment in winning the Nobel Peace Prize. However, many people would be surprised to learn about the obstacles Albert Einstein overcame as a young child. He was disinterested with some of his studies, nearly failed high school, and was often subject to bouts of depression and anger. Young Albert had a difficult time fitting in and making friends. Don Brown’s Odd Boy Out shows the reader a biographical account of the young life of this famed scientist. Rather than focusing solely on his accomplishments, Brown sheds light on the difficulties Einstein had to face in order to become the great man he is known as. Throughout this biographical picture book one main message rings loud and clear: even the world’s greatest thinkers encounter obstacles. The measure of a man is not found in the absence of problems but in overcoming one’s internal and external difficulties. Albert Einstein was not the only young boy to struggle to find his place in life; everybody struggles in life, but it is also possible for everyone to excel in their passions and do great things. Don Brown’s Young Albert Einstein is a testimony to what can be achieved despite the hardships life sometimes presents.
Sandler, M. (2008). Lincoln through the lens. New York: Walker & Company.
On the outside, Lincoln Through the Lens may look like a simple picture book, but once you crack open its pages you’ll find that it is much more than that. To begin with, I wouldn’t consider this a “picture book” in the traditional sense of the word. At almost one-hundred pages with dense text, it is not by any means a bed time story, nor is it meant to be read in one sitting. On the contrary, Lincoln Through the Lens is a biographical book with a series of photographs pertaining to the text. This book presents a biography of one of the most photographed presidents in American history: Abraham Lincoln. From his childhood to his assassination the author provides riveting photographs of the former president that engages the reader in a way that words cannot do alone. This biographical work is a great read for anyone with an interest in history, or Abraham Lincoln. It is also ideal for a student doing a professional inquiry into the life of this beloved president. Martin W. Sandler’s Lincoln Through the Lens is a biography that delightfully informs the read through words and photographs alike.