Picture Books for Young Adults
Fingerson, Julie, Killeen, Erlene Bishop, Teacher Librarian
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. This hard-boiled tale is a great way to introduce the study of mysteries to reading and language arts classes. This book will pique students' interest in investigating mysteries and in learning what elements are necessary to write an intriguing mystery. Students might also want to experiment with the artistic style of paper cuttings made famous by Wisniewski.
LITERATURE STUDY IN PICTURE BOOKS
The Spider and the Fly, the 2003 Caldecott Honor Book, provides motivation for exploring a variety of topics, such as cautionary tales, silent movies, social standards, and melodramas--just to mention a few. Combine it with Avi's Silent Movie and the aforementioned Mock Made Movies to explore a genre in a media class. Examine stereotypes in the characters of the story. Another great idea for genre writing is to use Lies and Other Tall Tales, collected by Zora Neale Hurston and adapted and illustrated in 2005 by Christopher Myers. The stark, bold colors in the paper-collage illustrations add to the outlandish statements of the text. Ask teens to create a better lie than "I have known it to get so cold, the words all froze up and fell to the floor like hail," and have them illustrate it in paper-collage style for a unique assignment.
MYTHOLOGY IN PICTURE BOOKS
Unlock the wonders of classic Greek mythology with newer versions of Pandora, by Robert Burleigh and Haul Colon; The Hero and the Minotaur, by Robert Byrd; and King Midas: The Golden Touch, by Demi. These picture books offer a great way to examine Greek cultural beliefs in social studies classes. Students can study these myths in language arts classes by writing about King Midas and how he got rid &his donkey ears or by researching a character through an examination of that character's role in the myth. Students can also examine lessons learned, the time period, and why the myths endure--providing a wonderful springboard for other research.
HISTORICAL EVENTS AND SOCIAL ISSUES IN PICTURE BOOKS
Picture books can introduce and explore social issues, historical events, and people in a way that no other medium can. Watch anyone read one of Eve Bunting's many titles dealing with the problems in humanity. Her One Candle makes the Holocaust personal and brings an understanding of family traditions to the reader. Her Fly Away Home and December offer insight and will ignite discussion about the homeless; Smokey Night makes the Los Angeles riots personal; and The Wall adds emotion to the history of the Vietnam War.
Shared with a class, these kinds of picture books will evoke responses in journal writings, letter writings, drawings, and discussions. They will set the stage for research and humanity projects that are suddenly interesting and relevant. Other examples include Candace Fleming's Boxes for Katje, based on her mother's experiences of sending letters and gifts to support deprived families in Holland after World War II.
Think about the comparison to recent disasters. Nikki Giovanni's Rosa gives an emotional introduction to the civil rights actions of Rosa Parks and others. Try the colorful folk-art appeal of Karen Barbour's illustrations in Let's Talk About Race, by Julius Lester, which uses simple, straightforward language to discuss a difficult topic. Always Remember Me: How One Family Survived World War II, by Marisabina Russo, is a great example of collecting memorabilia, developing an exhibit, and telling a story.
ECONOMICS AND TECHNOLOGY IN PICTURE BOOKS
Picture books can serve to introduce an involved topic. How Much? Visiting Markets Around the World, by Ted Lewin, with its sparse text, specific market locations, and elaborate paintings, add visual identification elements to a study of trade and economics around the world. A Subway for New York is rich in black-and-white line drawings, including details of machinery, construction, engineering, architecture, and processes involved in building a subway. This title can be used in a drafting class or when discussing evolving transportation, building progress, and the growth of cities.
Picture books demand to be read aloud, shared, explored, and analyzed. The format allows students to approach a subject, an idea, or a concept from their personal levels of comfort. Some rush to see the pictures. Others read the words of the entire story first and then reread it to examine the pictures for more depth. Still others use the illustrations as clues to difficult ideas, miscued reading, or unfamiliar settings. Adults approach picture books in much the same manner and are often surprised to see how picture books have evolved.
DEVELOPING A PICTURE BOOK COLLECTION
Consider the following questions when putting picture books in a middle school or high school collection.
Where is the best place for the book to receive the most attention from students and teachers? For example, Patrol: An American Soldier in Vietnam, by Walter Dean Myers, could be easily placed in the poetry section for the poetic narrative in which the story is written, or it could be placed in the history section for its coverage of the Vietnam War. Some teacher-librarians promote their picture book collections separately to study children's literature collaboratively in the family and consumer education, fine arts, and language arts classes. Placing a special collection near comfortable reading chairs extends an invitation to students to sit down, relax, and read for just a few minutes.
How do we eliminate the stigma for students who need to explore this level of reading in their academic growth? All picture books are certainly not easy reading, but they do allow students to have visualization of the story while they read. This can help challenged readers with comprehension--that is, if they do not feel too embarrassed to be seen with a picture book. Humorous titles or arresting illustrations will attract even the best reader or most popular student, adding value and helping to reduce stigma.
Are reading picture books und reporting on them equivalent to reading a novel? Is producing a picture book the same as writing a short story? And where do picture books fit in the grading process? These are questions that teacher-librarians and teachers need to define together.
Although dilemmas such as these exist, what is most important is to share the love of reading and knowledge through picture books with young adults of all ages.
American Library Association. (2006). The Randolph Caldecott Medal. Retrieved January 30, 2006, from www.ala.org/ala/ alsc/awardsscholarships/literaryawds/ caldecottmedal/aboutcaldecott/ aboutcaldecott.htm
RECOMMENDED PICTURE BOOKS
Action Jackson. Jan Greenberg and Sandra Jordan. Ill. Robert Andrew Parker. Roaring Brook, 2002. $16.95. 0-7613-2770-3.
Always remember me: How one family survived World War II. Marisabina Russo. Atheneum/Anne Schwartz, 2005. $16.95. 0-68986920-7.
Anne Frank. Josephine Poole. Ill. Angela Barrett. Knopf, 2005. $17.95. 0-375-93242-9.
Boxes for Katje. Candace Fleming. Pictures by Stacey Dressen-McQueen. Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2003. $16.00. 0-374-30922-1.
Casey at the bat: A ballad of the republic sung in the year 1888. Ernest Lawrence Thayer. Scholastic, 2001. $12.95. 0-439-33676-7. A 2002 Caldecott Honor Book.
December. Eve Bunting. Ill. David Diaz. Harcourt, 1997. $16.00. 0-15-201434-9.
Fly away home. Eve Bunting. Ill. Ronald Himler. Clarion, 1991. $14.95. 0-395-55962-6.
The hero and the minotaur: The fantastic adventures of Theseus. Robert Byrd. Dutton, 2005. $16.99. 0-525-47391-2.
How much? Visiting markets around the world. Ted Lewin. HarperCollins, 2006. $15.99. 0-688-17552-X.
King Midas: The golden touch. Demi. Margaret K. McElderry Books, 2001. $19.95. 0-689-83297-4.
Let's talk about race. Julius Lester. Ill. Karen Barbour. Amistad, 2005. $16.89. 0-06-028598-2.
Lies and other tall tales. Collected by Zora Neale Hurston. Adapted and illustrated by Christopher Myers. HarperCollins, 2005. $16.89. 0-06-000656-0.
Mack made movies. Don Brown. Roaring Brook, 2003. $16.95. 0-7613-2504-2.
One candle. Eve Bunting. Ill. K. Wendy Popp. HarperCollins, 2002. $15.99. 0-06-02815-4.
Pandora. Robert Burleigh and Raul Colon. Harcourt, 2002. $16.00. 0-15-202178-7.
Patrol: An American soldier in Vietnam. Walter Dean Myers. HarperCollins, 2005. $6.99.0-06-073159-1.
Rosa. Nikki Giovanni. Ill. Bryan Collier. Henry Holt, 2005. $16.95. 0-8050-7106-7. A 2006 Caldecott Honor Book.
Science verse. Jon Scieszka. Ill. Lane Smith. Viking, 2004. $16.99. 0-670-91057-0.
Silent movie. Avi. Ill. C. B. Mordan. Simon & Schuster, 2003. $16.95. 0-689-84145-0.
Smokey night. Eve Bunting. Ill. David Diaz. Harcourt, 1994. $16.00. 0-1526995-46. A 1995 Caldecott Winner.
Spider and the fly. Mary Howitt. Ill. Tony DiTerlizzi. Simon & Schuster, 2002. $16.95. 0-689-85289-4. A 2003 Caldecott Honor Book.
A subway for New York. David Weitzman. Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2005. $17.00. 0-374-37284-5.
Theodore. Frank Keating. Paintings by Mike Wimmer. Simon & Schuster, 2006. $16.95. 0-689-86532-5.
Tough cookie. David Wisniewski. Lothrop, Lee & Shepard Books, 1999. $16.00. 0-688-15337-2.
The wall. Eve Bunting. Ill. Ronald Himler. Clarion, 1990. $14.95. 0-395-51588-2.
Will Rogers: An American legend. Frank Keating. Ill. Mike Wimmer. Harcourt, 2002. $16.00. 0-15-202405-0.
Feature articles in TL are blind refereed by members of the advisory board. This article was submitted April 2004 and updated and accepted January 2006.
Julie Fingerson is the teacher-librarian at Sandhill School, which serves grades 5 and 6 in Stoughton, Wisconsin. Her email address is fingeju@ stoughton.k12.wi.us.
Erlene Bishop Killeen is teacher-librarian and district coordinator at Fox Prairie Elementary School, which serves 485 students in grades K-4 in Stoughton, WI. Her e-mail address is email@example.com.…
Questia, a part of Gale, Cengage Learning. www.questia.com
Publication information: Article title: Picture Books for Young Adults. Contributors: Fingerson, Julie - Author, Killeen, Erlene Bishop - Author. Magazine title: Teacher Librarian. Volume: 33. Issue: 4 Publication date: April 2006. Page number: 32+. © 2008 Scarecrow Press, Inc. COPYRIGHT 2006 Gale Group.
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