I admit it. I am somewhat of a bibliophile. Not a true blooded, died in the wool, bibliophile...but I do love books. Especially children's books. In fact my love for children's written materials actually landed me a job in the children's room of our public library. It was my favorite secular job of all times. But I digress. The purpose of this post is to introduce you to some really good children's books. Ones that will entertain, but also exemplify good values through story.
Disclaimer: As I write this, it is March 2020 and we are in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic. Normally I write to equip children's workers. But two things have happened. First, my husband retired and since he was a pastor, we changed churches. For now I am not working in ministry except on occasion. Secondly, everyone worldwide kind of got moved out of hands-on ministry with the coronavirus. So for the time being, I plan on writing some posts like this one, to equip those at home with children. Someday I hope someone will be reading this, and the coronavavirus disease (COVID-19) will be a thing of the past. Someday, that day will be reality, but for now, we are where we are.
So here we go.
- Book number one is Obadiah the Bold by Brinton Turkle. Turkle wrote and illustrated his own books during the 1960's and 70's.There are a total of four books in this series. Obadiah is a little Quaker boy who lives on Nantucket Island during colonial times. The characters in the books use what is called Quaker "Plain Speech." It is most noted when they address each other as thee or thou. There's a long history behind Plain Speech, but it isn't used much anymore. I think it is cool to read though. Obadiah the Bold tells the story of how Obadiah decides he wants to become a fearless pirate when he grows up and roam the seas to find buried treasure. "Has thee ever heard of a Quaker pirate?" his older siblings taunt him. After a somewhat harrowing time of playing pirate with those same siblings Obadiah's father takes him on his knee and teaches him about true bravery. The pictures are delightful in these books, and Obadiah's irrepressible spirit should capture your hearts. I would order from Beautiful Feet Books(BF Books). In cooperation with the Eric Carle Museum, BF Books published new copies of three of the four books with restored color in the artwork in 2018. If you must order from Amazon, make sure you get these 2018 editions. Recommended for K-3rd grade.
- Book number two is Clancy's Coat by Eve Bunting. This is a simple Irish tale about a coat, and a broken friendship, that both needed mending. When Tippitt's cow wanders into his friend Clancy's garden, and makes havoc of it, neither man is willing to make peace with the other. Until one day, Clancy brings an old coat to Tippitt, who is also a tailor, and tells him it needs to be turned, "Make the inside be the outside and the outside be the inside, if you get my meaning." When Clancy comes back to check on the coat, it hasn't been done yet, but Tippitt invites him to have a cup of tea, and the second time he serves him bread with it, spread with wonderful, creamy butter from Tippitt's cow. And so the reconciliation slowly takes place through repeated visits and added food each time. Values experienced: forgiveness, patience, sympathy and reconciliation. When I shared this story with the children in an after school program, we had tea, bread and butter after the story. You can even make your own butter with the children. Just get cream and pour it into a jar with a lid that seals tightly. Start shaking and pass it around. First it will turn to whipped cream, but keep shaking, and it will turn to butter. Unfortunately this book is out of print, but there are still plenty of used copies around and you can always get it from the library. Grades 1-4; ideal for grades 2-3. Available from various bookstores.
- Book number three is The Sign Painter's Dream by Phillip Roth. I have actually written a whole post with activities on this book a few years ago. This is the story of a crabby old sign painter named Clarence (nice alliteration...crabby Clarence) and a small gray-haired women and George Washington. Clarence's only soft spot is history books, especially Revolutionary War ones. When the pleasant woman asks him to make her a sign, for free, Clarence about blows his top. But that night, General George Washington comes to him in a dream and Clarence has a change of heart. He does make the sign, he makes it for free and he makes it glorious and magnificent, just like she asked for. Amazon or at your local library. I saw a few on eBay too.
- Book number four is Noah's Ark illustrated by Peter Spier. Spier is one of my favorite illustrators. I am not sure if it because he was Dutch and I come from a strong Dutch heritage, or whether it is the abundance of details in his pictures. In any case, this book very accurately portrays the biblical account of Noah's ark, with some very imaginative humor thrown in...all through pictures. I actually used the pictures in this book to tell the story during a Noah's Ark VBS we did. Here is one of my favorite pictures: Penguin Random House.
- Lastly, book number five is Hooway for Wodney Wat by Helen Lester. I will warn you that some feel this book does not teach good values, but more on that at the end. I first encountered this book when one of my library coworkers used it for a preschool story time. I recently gave it to a four year old at a party and one of the other little boys piped up, "I know that story, he can't say his "r's" and he makes the bully go away." Proof it will lure even reluctant readers through its strong story. Wodney is really Rodney, but he can't pronounce his "r's." All the kids make fun of him for this, especially the new student, Camillia, who arrives announcing she is bigger, meaner and smarter than all the other rodents. Poor Wodney takes a virtual beating through teasing, and so he takes to pulling his sweater up over his head and just sort of peaking out. Then one day they play Simon Says and it is Rodney's turn to be Simon. The bully doesn't realize that Rodney can't say his "r's" and so when he tells the class to "Wead the sign." everyone but Camillia reads it. She weeds it. Now here is where it gets tricky. I always read it as though Rodney was just leading, and each of the commands he gave were not premeditated to bring about the final result (except by Helen Lester of course). It never even crossed my mind that Rodney might have purposely given the last command to get rid of Camellia. I always just thought it happened, and so he accidentally became a hero. Just what is the third and final command Simon gives? "Go west." While the class lies down to rest, Camillia walks west, never to be seen again. And the kids don't make fun of Rodney anymore, he is now a hero. So, I leave this one up to you. Take it, as I naively did until I read others reviews today, that Rodney simply was giving commands, and his last one was perfect, because it had the effect of Camillia leaving. Or you can analyze it and say it was premeditated, and then it might not be such a good story to read. True, the children do laugh at Camillia when she begins to mistake Rodney's directives, and this is not a positive value. However, I want to point out that Rodney never subverts to meanness or bullying tactics. If his solution was premeditated, he chose a non-violent way to solve a problem. Value taught: "Vengeance is mine says the Lord, I will repay." Think about it, who made the rat's mouth? God. So who gave him the speech impediment? God. And who used the impediment to save the day? That one is up for grabs apparently, but remember who gave Rodney, or Wodney, his gift of speech. Ages preschool - grade 2. Available at bookstores (you may have to special order), online and in your library.