Monday, November 6, 2017

A Handful of Favs

The semester is taking a turn as the second year students are heading out for practicum (teaching in the schools) and won’t be back until after Christmas. (Alright, they might be scheduled to come back once for a debriefing before Christmas.) This means, with only first year students here, the library is going to be pretty darn quiet. It’s not quite the ‘end-of-term’ feeling but its close.

It’s time to start getting caught up with reading.

Here are five fantastic picture books that coincidentally all touch on the same themes of fulfilling dreams or wishes, realizing potential, seeking knowledge, being curious and finding answers.

First up is The Antlered Ship by Dashka Slater. In a quest to find the answer to a slew of questions about how the world works, a red fox joins the motley crew of animals on a ship headed for an island with ”tall, sweet grass and short, sweet trees.” There are challenges and adventures along the way, testing the crew. But perseverance and friendship prevail, as well as the realization that there are always more questions to be pondered and seeking to understand the world is a never ending endeavor. This book is about friendship and that the journey is more important than the destination. Wonderful illustrations enhance this story. Recommended for grades 1-4.

The Book of Gold by Bob Staake is also about a lifetime quest for – you guessed it, The Book of Gold. A young boy finds everything boring and nothing interests him. Isaac’s parents do everything they can think of to show him the pleasures to be had in learning about the world around him. He’s just not into it, until he’s told the legend of “one very special book that’s just waiting to be discovered. It will look like any other book, but it holds all the answers to every question ever asked, and when it is opened, it turns to solid gold.”  The appeal of gold drives Isaac to open every book he comes across without much regard until one book catches his interest and a question pops into his head, “Why don’t the pyramids have windows?” Though his quest continues his entire life, he begins to discover the world first through books and then by traveling to faraway places. He never does find this elusive book but as an eighty year-old man, he’s able to intrigue another young boy with the promise of The Book of Gold. The illustrations are digitally rendered, highly stylized and distinctive for this author’s style. It’s a bit message-y for me but I think it would be a strong teaching book for grades 1-3.

The Almost Impossible Thing by Basak Agaoglu follows the evolution of a dream. It may start small but as an idea takes shape for a rabbit with high-flying aspirations, we get to see all the iterations of his/her attempts to become airborne. I see this one fitting into a design thinking or maker class that focuses on how an idea develops over time and the trial and errors that often go into getting an idea off the ground. The illustrations are light and airy with a minimalist feel.  I’m recommending this one for the younger primary grades.

My next recommendation is If You Hold a Seed by Elly MacKay because it can work both on a very real-world level as well as at the metaphorical level. Planting a seed (idea, hope, intention), nurturing it, waiting patiently for something to start to grow (develop, mature, swell) and then appreciating the tree (or whatever result you worked to achieve) that finally comes to be. The illustrations are soft and done with a warm palette which draws the reader in. I see this working well with grades kindergarten to grade 3 or perhaps higher if you’re teaching about metaphor.

The last recommendation is quite different from the first four in both subject matter and tone. A Different Pond by Bao Phi is a fictionalized, slice-of-life account of an immigrant family from Vietnam when a young boy accompanies his father on a fishing trip. This trip is done very early in the morning while it’s still dark out and between the father’s jobs. The fish they catch is critical for the family’s food supply. Both the author and illustrator have contributed notes that speak to their experiences as Vietnamese immigrants establishing themselves in a new country. Again, the strong illustration style contributes to the storytelling. Recommended for grades kindergarten to grade 3.

So, to all you second year students have a great practicum. Remember the Doucette Library is here to support your experience and if you need resources email us. Hope to hear from you soon.


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