By Fingerson, Julie; Killeen, Erlene Bishop
Teacher Librarian , Vol. 33, No. 4
INSPIRE, CONNECT, AND REACH EARLY TEENS WITH A FAMILIAR FORMAT: PICTURE BOOKS. PICTURE BOOKS TODAY CONTAIN POETRY, BIOGRAPHY, HISTORY, MATH, SCIENCE, GEOGRAPHY, AND LITERARY GENRES FOR ALL AGES. MIDDLE SCHOOL AND HIGH SCHOOL LIBRARY COLLECTIONS MUST DRAW ON THESE RICH RESOURCES AS WE AS TEACHER-LIBRARIANS SERVE STUDENTS WHO BECOME EVERMORE VISUALLY, GRAPHICALLY, AND SPATIALLY ADEPT.
One thing that many people do not realize is that even the Caldecott Medal (American Library Association, 2006) awarded to the most distinguished American picture book for children defines the picture book audience as birth to age 14. An examination of publishers' catalogs or journal reviews reveals an increasing number of books in the picture book format that are intended or appropriate for secondary students. This is an area that needs to be expanded in most secondary school libraries.
POETRY AND HUMOR IN PICTURE BOOKS
Ernest Lawrence Thayer's poetic ballad Casey at the Bat is illustrated with primary sources from the research of Christopher Bing. Students relive the period through the black-and-white illustrations along with the newspaper articles, giving readers the flavor of being at the ball game in the year 1888. This poem is wonderful to read aloud and have the students predict the ending. Share with students that other versions of this poem have been written with different endings. Then, students can create their own version of Casey at the Bat or develop another baseball epic poem in writing classes.
A version of Casey at the Bat can be Found in Science Verse, entitled "Scientific Method at the Bat." Secondary students will appreciate the subtle, humorous approach to topics about the human body, black holes, atoms, the food chain, and planets, based on familiar songs, poems, and nursery rhymes. Jon Scieszka plays with words in this poetic compilation based on popular songs--for example, "Glory, Glow, Evolution" to the chorus of the "Battle Hymn of the Republic." Poems by well-known authors such as Lewis Carroll, Edgar Allen Poe, Joyce Kilmer, and Robert Frost are used in parody. Literature class students can compare the clever nutritional verse of "Gobblegooky" to Carroll's "Jabberwocky" or Kilmer's "Trees" to the human body poem "Lovely" and can then be encouraged to write their own verses using an old nursery rhyme.
BIOGRAPHIES IN PICTURE BOOKS
Biographies in picture books give insight into character and personality. Anne Frank by Josephine Poole makes the courageous story of a young girl accessible. The artwork and brooding nature of Jackson Pollock in Action Jackson is geared to an audience older than preschoolers. Frank Keating brings us Teddy Roosevelt in Theodore, with portrait paintings by Mike Wimmer. Written in the first-person voice of the former president, each topic includes a direct quote, such as "I have never spent an unhappy day." President Roosevelt's personality quickly emerges through the writing. Additionally, this flavor of pretelevision America is tangible in Frank Keating's earlier biography Will Rogers, and the transition from vaudeville to movies is demonstrated humorously in a new picture book about Mack Sennett, Mack Made Movies.
Consider the amount of research that goes into creating these picture books. How much research would a secondary student need to do to write her or his own picture biography of someone? How much would that appeal to our visually oriented students? They could meet a multitude of national standards in several subject areas as well as information literacy with one involved quality project. Suggestions to subject area teachers could direct these kinds of assignments in a variety of classes.
MYSTERIES IN PICTURE BOOKS
When it comes to mysteries, David Wisniewski's Tough Cookie is hard to beat. As the cookie crumbles, there are numerous puns For students to identify as the story is read aloud. …