A True Honor – LeUyen Pham Asked for My Help

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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.

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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.

 

Long Walk to Water

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 & Back Again

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.

ML Finally Likes Elephant & Piggie Books

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I’ve checked out Elephant & Piggie books by Mo Willems for years.  ML emphatically refused for us to read them stating, “You know I don’t like comic books.”  Recently she said, “Mommy, I don’t like the Pigeon books anymore.  I like the Elephant & Piggie books.”  The Pigeon books are by Mo Willems too.

The library received a new pigeon book days before this conversation.  I responded, “OK, I won’t bring home the new Pigeon book, The Pigeon Needs a Bath.  ML changed her tune requesting, “Please bring home the Pigeon book, but also bring home some Elephant & Piggie books.”  Excitedly, I seized the opportunity and requested every Elephant & Piggie book published.

The night I brought home The Pigeon Needs a Bath  bedtime snuck up on us.  I wanted to multitask the bedtime routine by reading to ML while she ate her bedtime snack.  Sitting on the floor in the kitchen, I was ready to begin reading.   ML said, “Wait! I want to read The Pigeon Needs a Bath to you.”  On our dusty wooden floor, I realized something.  The only people who read picture books out loud with more feeling than a children’s librarian are the children of these librarians.

I’m glad I didn’t force the Elephant & Piggie books on ML.  The dramatic opportunities in these books are beyond measure.  Of course, I didn’t realize this until ML showed me.  She decided I should be Elephant and she would be Piggie.  We’ve been reading them out loud together.

Recently, her friend came for dinner.  They acted out seven different Elephant & Piggie books.  I sat on the sofa and held the books open so they could read the words.  It was fun watching them taking turns being Elephant & Piggie.  There were even costumes made from blue painter’s tape.  A long strip taped to Elephant’s nose and a short curly tail for Piggie allowing for quick costume changes after each book.

My wonderful friend from library school who lives in California posted Elephant & Piggie Do Reader’s Theater last week on her blog.  Looks like children from coast to coast are performing dramatic readings of Elephant & Piggie books.

When you read the Elephant & Piggie books (because you must no matter your age or access to children) make sure to check out the back inside covers of the books.  The Pigeon makes an appearance.  I’m not buying ML’s comment, ” I don’t like the Pigeon books anymore.”   She loves finding that silly bird hiding out in the Elephant & Piggie books.

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