This got me thinking. Since I am a reading specialist, taught first grade, and took every children's lit class I could in undergrad and graduate school, maybe I could do some reviews and give people some ideas of good books. While I am by no means an expert on children's books, I was fortunate enough to take classes from and work with a number of people who are experts. Also, I am lucky enough to have a mother-in-law who ran a children's book shop for years and years and always has really great ideas
about quality literature for children. If anyone wants to write a guest post featuring a favorite book of theirs, or even has ideas for me, let me know.
I also want to eventually branch out into giving tips and ideas about strategies to use when reading with your child. Strategies for differe
nt ages and stages of development. Etc. This is something I have a lot of experience with and there are a lot of really fairly easy things you can do to make reading even more of an active process for your child.
So, to start this little 'segment' of Islwyn's blog, I want to talk about one of my favorite authors and illustrators, Lois Lenski.
My first experience with Lois Lenski was when I was about 8 years old and my mom gave me Betsy and Tacy by Maud Hart Lovelace. Lenski did the illustrations for that book. She was an extremely prolific writer and illustrator--writing about 100 books herself, and illustrating around 50 books for other authors. She was awarded the Newbery Medal for her book Strawberry Girl.
Recently, Islwyn and I re-discovered her books at the library. We checked out Cowboy Small and read it at least twice a day for the entire 3 weeks we had it at home. The illustrations are simple and uncluttered, but also include details for the child to learn about the parts of the horse's gear and cowboy's clothes etc. In the older printing of the books it looks like they were printed using only two or three colors. The copy of the book we checked out was an early printing and the colors used were black, brown, and white I think. But I noticed in the new printings, they use full color. The picture above illustrates how the new printings of the book look.
The front page of the book is an illustration of Cowboy Small with all of his cowboy gear around him. Each part of his clothing is labelled--so every time we read the book we had to start by pointing out his chaps, boots, hat, handkerchief, etc. Then the books goes through describing Cowboy Small's day on the ranch. The story is really a perfect blend of fiction and non-fiction. You learn about the real names of all the things cowboys wear and all the parts of the horse and its saddle. You also learn about typical things that happen on a ranch and what a cowboy does. The main character, Cowboy Small, is a little boy, so the children reading it can relate to him. The text is simple and easy to follow, but uses all the correct words for everything too.
Islwyn loved this book! There is a whole series of Small books. There is one about flying an airplane, another about a train, etc. There are quite a few "Small" books. Unfortunately, they are almost impossible to find at books stores--around here at least. I did a little reconnaissance on this--we went to the local children's book shop downtown. I love this store--they have a pretty great selection. They had ONE Lois Lenski book. Needless to say, I was pretty disappointed. So last night I checked at Borders, they didn't even have one of her books. I think it is pretty sad that some of these old classic books--that are really good literature--are impossible to find. While you have no trouble finding a book featuring Disney characters or Sesame Street characters. Depressing.