Checking out the picture books
Late this summer an entire library of books was delivered to a new school in Baltimore. I should know - I picked all 2,254 of them. It was what you might call a labor of love. Emphasis on the "labor". Actually, emphasis on the love.
As we shelved what amounted to thirty thousand dollars worth of brand-new beautiful books, one of our parent volunteers said, "I bet you've read half the books in this room!" I did a quick scan of a few shelves and admitted that actually, I have read probably upwards of 75% of them. Most of the fiction, all of the picture books, and one heck of a lot of the nonfiction. Wow. I am either really really sad or really really dedicated.
You may hire me to create or maintain your school library collection, and I will certainly not object, but I thought it might be nice to share some of the lists I created. I'll do a series of about a dozen posts, at least the nonfiction, starting with the 000's. This will be my own version of School Library Journal's Series Made Simple issue (which is a great resource, by the way).
The 000's are kind of a weird little miscellany area of a school library. Every school should have a set of the World Book, and please do buy an almanac every year, but if you have the bucks, try to get a few "strange but true" reference books in there. Some kids really respond to Ripley's Believe It Or Not and Guinness World Records. Books like these have a sneaky added benefit - the indexed entries introduce kids to a nonlinear method of approaching a book, important when they're doing real research later.
Gee, Joshua. Encyclopedia Horrifica: The Terrifying Truth About Vampires, Ghosts, Monsters, & More. A kind of weird book to start off with, but, as the kid says in Beetlejuice, "I myself am strange and unusual."
Teitelbaum, Michael. Bigfoot Caught on Film: And Other Monster Sightings!. The 24/7: Science Behind the Scenes series from Scholastic is... it's ok. Little niblets of info, good for hooking readers, but it's nice to have something with a little more depth to back these books up, in case your readers do get interested in the subject. I picked carefully through this series and selected just a few titles.
Prieto, Anita C. B Is For Bookworm: A Library Alphabet. These alphabet books from Sleeping Bear Press are a bit uneven. This one is pretty dry, but I wanted to fill out a small suite of library-themed books. If you're tempted by the ABC book for your state, or about a particular subject, be sure to get your hands on it and read it through first. Some of the words can be awfully obscure.
Ruurs, Margriet. My Librarian Is A Camel: How Books Are Brought To Children Around The World. How people live around the world is a particularly important theme in this school, and one that I personally find important. Kids find the juxtapositions fascinating, too. The pictures in this book are very nice.
Farndon, John. Visual Encyclopedia (DK). I keep buying and buying this book, and they keep loving and loving it until they love it to pieces. I'm not the world's be-all end-all fan of Dorling Kindersley - I don't think they fact-check hard enough - but this single-volume encyclopedia + elementary school kids = LOVE.
Aronson, Marc. For Boys Only: The Biggest, Baddest Book Ever. Frankly? I bought this on Jon Scieszka's recommendation. More graphically interesting and up-to-date looking than that other "dangerous" book, which I swear was written for parents.
Farndon, John. Do Not Open. Irresistable, full of fun facts about freaky stuff, several activities and suggestions for bringing the info in the book to life. Worth the few extra bucks. My 8 year old got a copy of this for his birthday and was enraptured. His little brother is learning to read just as fast and as hard as he can so he can have a turn with it.
Macdonald, Guy. Even More Children's Miscellany: Smart, Silly, and Strange Information That's Essential to Know. Same stuff, but for smaller kids.
McDonald, Megan. Stink-O-Pedia: Super Stink-y Stuff From A To ZZZZ. I like Stink Moody. I like him better than his sister, Judy. I buy Judy Moody, but I buy Stink too. He's funny, he's good-hearted, he's a 'second chapter book' for boys who think fantasy is pointless. Stink reads encyclopedias in his spare time, so I thought I'd offer his fans Stink's very own encyclopedia.
Murrie, Steve & Matthew. Every Minute On Earth: Fun Facts That Happen Every 60 Seconds. I never can seem to find enough books about time. Time is hard to explain. So when this book arrived at the public library, I snatched it. I stood and read it between customers at the information desk and I figured if I was fascinated enough to read it all the way through, surely somebody in that school would be too.
Mark, Jan. Museum Book: A Guide To Strange And Wonderful Collections. This is Baltimore, baby. We've got a light bulb museum and a teeth museum and we used to have a dime museum. We are to strange and wonderful as Paris is to lovely and inspiring.
Marcus, Leonard S. Side by Side: Five Favorite Picture-Book Teams Go to Work. Marvelous funny anecdotes, lots of illustrations showing all steps of the creative process, a very nice introduction to the concept of collaboration. Terrible cover though.