A few weeks ago I received an email from LeUyen Pham with the subject line “book suggestions from some of my favorite book people.” Before I even opened the email, I was honored. She’s presenting a lecture in Chicago this winter and wanted ideas of newer books to include on a reading list. The lecture is titled “Wandering Wonderland: An Immigrant’s Story Told Through Books.” A week later, LeUyen asked if I would write about why I liked three of the books I recommended. I’ve always wanted to visit Chicago. Wish I could make it there on March 5th to attend the Butler Lecture at Dominican University.
Elephant and Piggy Series by Mo Willems – Most easy reader books are boring. It’s difficult to write a fun book with a limited vocabulary using words which are pronounced utilizing conventional phonics . (It’s one reason Dr. Seuss and Amelia Bedelia books are still popular today.) In 2007, the first of twenty-one Elephant & Piggie books was published. Each one is as funny as the one before. These easy readers build confidence and vocabulary in even the most reluctant of readers. Each book is a conversation between Elephant and Piggie. A perfect parent/child read-aloud where one can read Piggie’s lines. . . the other Elephant’s dialogue.
A Long Walk to Water: Based on a True Story by Linda Sue Park – This book should be required reading for fifth and sixth graders. Told from two perspectives. . . a Sudanese boy in 1985 and an eleven-year-old girl during 2008. Use this book as a springboard for important conversations about war, poverty, lack of clean water and other issues eleven-year-old children in other countries experience daily.
Inside Out and Back Again by Thanhha Lai – A novel in verse based on the author’s personal experience fleeing Vietnam and eventually landing in Alabama. The short free verse poems perfectly evoke the struggles acclimating to a new language, food, clothing and customs.