I had a fabulous time last week visiting classes at the elementary school. As the week went on, the visits got better and better, culminating in the terrific last day where I actually got to read to the kids in their classrooms (the school library was being used for another purpose).
I LOVE being a children’s librarian, but visiting those classes made me think (not for the first time in my life) that I would also love to be a classroom teacher at the elementary level. To spend a whole year, day in and day out, with the same group of kids, really getting to know them and teach them and see them progress intellectually and socially – it’s got to be a cool feeling. Hard work, for sure, but also rewarding work.
But back to my visits. I chose a bunch of newer books to read to the kids this year, and a lot of them were very well-received. This year’s favorites include:
For the 1st graders: I Lost My Bear written and illustrated by Jules Feiffer. Ok, so this isn’t a “new” book, but it’s a fantastic readaloud, and most of the kids had never heard it before. Then Help! A Story of Friendship written and illustrated by Holly Keller. An oops on my part worked out just fine – I remembered that this story was a hit last year, so I brought it out again this year. What I didn’t remember is that I read it to the Kindergarteners last year, and to the first graders this year – in other words, I read it a second time to the same kids. But it was actually ok, and the kids loved it just as much this time as they did last time. Then, the last story for the 1st graders was Lissy’s Friends written and illustrated by Grace Lin. I really love this story, as do the kids, and it gave me a chance to show off one of our freshly-signed Grace Lin books.
For the 2nd graders: Cupcake: A Journey to Special written and illustrated by Charise Mericle Harper. Such a fun story – and great for 2nd graders, because they could slap their foreheads in frustration as the candle and the cupcake totally miss the obvious. Then we read Not Last Night, But the Night Before by Colin McNaughton, illustrated by Emma Chichester Clark. At first the kids thought it was too young for them, then they’d realize the subtle humor and the cameo appearances of fairytale characters, and then they’d smile and laugh and enjoy it. Cool book, just right for 2nd grade. And then we read Bad Bears Go Visiting by Daniel Pinkwater, illustrated by Jill Pinkwater. This is a fun book, good n’ silly, and we all enjoyed it. I just have one beef with this book: Pinkwater overuses the word “says” in his dialogue, which isn’t too noxious on paper, but gets pretty tedious when reading out loud. It’s weird, too, since it doesn’t go with the variety of the rest of Pinkwater’s writing. Maybe he did it intentionally, but that doesn’t make me enjoy reading “says” out loud fifteen million times…
For the 3rd graders: Timothy and the Strong Pajamas written and illustrated by Viviane Schwarz. I LOVE this book, and the kids do, too. It’s wise to start off with this book and end with quieter books, I’ve found, because the kids get pretty riled up by this story (a good thing, if you ask me). Mid-way through the book, I usually mention that Monkey reminds me a bit of Yoda, and the kids go “Oh, yeah!!!!!” Another favorite for the 3rd graders was Why Epossumondas Has No Hair On His Tail by Coleen Salley and illustrated by Janet Stevens. The kids usually started off skeptical about this book (obviously thinking it was too young for them), then were transfixed by the end. Then, if there was time, I also read Too Many Fairies: A Celtic Tale by Margaret Read MacDonald and illustrated by Susan Mitchell. I love MacDonald’s books, but have to admit this is not my favorite of her works. It’s ok, though, and the kids enjoyed it pretty well.
For the 4th graders: A Giraffe Goes to Paris by Mary Tavener Holmes and John Harris, illustrated by John Cannell. The kids loved that this was a true story, and it definitely kept those mature almost-fifth grade minds fully engaged. They also loved Princess Hyacinth: The Surprising Story of a Girl Who Floated by Florence Parry Heide, illustrated by Lane Smith, which is just silly enough and mentions Royal Underwear just enough for this age group. And, on Friday, I also read to them What Really Happened to Humpty: From the Files of a Hardboiled Detective by Jeanie Franz Ransom, illustrated by Stephen Axelsen. I had held off on this book earlier in the week, because I thought perhaps it wouldn’t resonate with the kids, that they wouldn’t “get” the detective jargon, but in fact they loved it and laughed at all the sly allusions to fairy tales. A big hit!
I didn’t get to see the 5th graders this year, sadly, because their schedules are too tight, and I’ll be seeing one of the Kindergarten classes next week (hopefully the other three Kindergarten classes too, we’ll see). It’s been a lot of fun, and we’ve read a bunch of awesome books together.