Teaching Children to Write

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Whetzel 1
Teaching Children to Write – Recommended Book Bibliography
*This bibliography was created to fulfill an assignment for Dr. Trupe’s Teaching Writing course
at Bridgewater College. The idea of the bibliography and some of the identified techniques are
borrowed from Wondrous Words by Katie Wood Ray.
Bryan, Ashley. Beautiful Blackbird. New York: Atheneum, 2003.
“Black is beautiful,” so the other birds want some black coloring like
Blackbird. This folktale from Zambia uses energetic text and color collages
to describe how Blackbird shared some of his outer beauty with his fellow
birds. The songs of the birds move the reader through the story. The book
uses repetition and onomatopoeia to paint scenes of vibrant motion, which is
emphasized when read aloud.
Bunting, Eve. Smoky Night. New York: Harcourt Brace, 1994.
In Smoky Night, text and pictures intertwine to create a first-hand account of a
boy’s unsettling experience during the Los Angeles riots. Bunting uses the
eyewitness account to direct the story and to paint the story’s landscape,
rather than providing a separate narrative of clearly-defined descriptions. The
images behind the text, made of scrap paper and highlighting items from the
text, support the reader’s experience and expectations, and it incorporates the
background as part of the story.
Burleigh, Robert. Hoops. New York: Harcourt Brace, 1997.
Burleigh describes the game of basketball in his poetry, Hoops. The story
appeals to all of the senses in its different approaches to describing basketball:
the reader sees, smells, feels, and hears the game. His unconventional
sentences match the pace of the game, making the reader a participant instead
of an observer. The short verses and fragmented phrases pull the readers’
attention to the emotion of the words, rather than the words themselves. The
book, read as a whole story, conveys a feeling greater than its parts.
Burningham, John. Cloudland. New York: Crown, 1996.
When Albert falls off a cliff, the children in the clouds save him and take him
into the clouds to live. Cloudland is a fantasy adventure, explaining what it
means to “have your head in the clouds.” Burningham creates a childhood
world through powerful nonsense words, popular euphemisms, and vivid
imagery. At points, he uses print type to emphasis content. The illustrations
using photographic backgrounds complement the story and add a weightless
quality to the story.
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Burns, Marilyn. The Greedy Triangle. New York: Scholastic, 1994.
Triangle has many functions and undergoes many transformations in Burn’s
concept book about shapes. The book contains multiple examples of the
shapes it discusses. When discussing where shapes appear, the author uses
lists to emphasize the multitude of examples. The book follows a repeating
pattern in plot, with the “shape shifter” indicating a change. Burns also uses
self-directed text effectively to explain the main character’s motivations.
Collier, Bryan. Uptown. New York: Henry Holt, 2000.
Come take a tour of Harlem in Bryan Collier’s book Uptown. He uses a
repeated sentence pattern – metaphors – to show uptown Harlem through the
eyes of a little boy. Print designed to show meaning gives extra depth to the
text. The collage illustrations with their bright colors draw the reader’s eyes
and perfectly accompany the story; although, the descriptive language and
similes paint vivid pictures by themselves.
Cronin, Doreen. Duck for President. New York: Scholastic, 2004.
There’s a new candidate on the political horizon: Duck! The book parodies
the democratic process and highlights the moral that the grass always seems
greener on the other side. Cronin uses repeating sentence patterns in her
descriptions of the various jobs that Duck works - general farm work to the
presidency – emphasizing different tasks but the dirty work involved. She
uses print to accentuate the text in ballots, billboards, and signs making the
illustrations part of the story. In the end, Duck does what every ex-president
does: he writes an autobiography.
Cuyler, Margery. The Biggest, Best Snowman. New York: Scholastic, 1998.
Little Nell wants to do BIG things, but her family tells her she is too little.
However that does not stop her from building the biggest snowman. Cuyler
uses print to accentuate how big the world can look to a small child. She also
uses and uses and uses “and” frequently during action passages to convey the
feeling of continuous activity. Repeating sentence patterns in the dialogue
and during the building of the snowman make the story easy to follow.
Dewey, Ariane. The Sky. New York: Green Tiger, 1993.
Who knew how much the sky could hold? In Sky, Dewey makes the reader
look at the sky as holding endless possibilities. The illustrations and print
layout are essential for the flavor of the story. The story starts simply with an
empty sky; then there is a crescendo of activity after a few pages, which tapers
off a few pages toward the end. Lots of nouns and unusual verbs create the
greatest impact in the text, and Dewey’s excessive use of commas makes the
reader take note of the multitude of stuff that is above them.
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Fletcher, Ralph. Twilight Comes Twice. New York: Clarion, 1997.
Twilight Comes Twice is the story of the “crack [that] opens between night
and day” at dawn and dusk. Throughout the book, the author uses familiar
sights and experiences to convey the light at different times of day. The
sentences are spread out into short verses giving the text a poetry feel, without
having to use rhyme. Other than periods to end sentences, punctuation is
scarce making the text fluid and matching the meaning of the text.
Fraustino, Lisa Rowe. The Hickory Chair. New York: Arthur A. Levine, 2001.
Louis is his grandmother’s “favorite youngest grandchild.” When she passes
away, she leaves something to each family member. But they must find
hidden notes to learn what that something is. Louis with his “blind sight”
uses his sense of smell and touch, as well as his memories of his grandmother,
to find everyone’s note except his own. Fraustino’s text is sensitive and
sentimental: she tends to use long sentences with varied punctuation to paint
pictures that address sight, sound, smell, and touch. She styles her dialogue to
provide a window showing the emotions of the characters.
Gerstein, Mordicai. The Man Who Walked Between the Towers. Brookfield, CT: Roaring, 2003.
A recounting of the extraordinary tight walk between the twin towers of the
NYC Trade centers of Philippe Petit in 1976. The book includes math
concepts such as height and circumference; as well as a sensitive approach to
a dramatic historical event. The scenes are described in strong action verbs,
as the author tells the story from inception to repercussions.
Gonzales, Lucia M. The Bossy Gallito. New York: Scholastic, 1994.
A bossy little rooster dirties his beak on the way to his uncle’s wedding. In
this continuous folktale, the rooster has to convince the grass to clean his
beak. The story contains lots of repetition in content and in sentence
structure, as in the tradition of continuous folktales. The sentences are either
very short or broken into smaller verses. This makes the story move along
quickly, and it aids in the ease of reading.
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Greene, Rhonda Gowler. This Is the Teacher. New York: Scholastic, 2004.
This is the story of an extremely eventful day! The teacher is knocked over,
the ants and the hamster escape their cages, and the janitor has to clean up
several huge messes! The sentence structure patterns and repetition keeps the
story moving at a quick pace, however he introduces new text in a rhyming
scheme. The onomatopoeia adds humor and imagery to the story. “Eek –
There’s that hamster…!”
Harter, Debbie. The Animal Boogie. Cambridge, MA: Barefoot, 2000.
The Animal Boogie introduces animals of the Indian jungle. It uses
onomatopoeia to describe motion; however, it is the rhythm of the words that
seems to make the story like a song. The author follows a specific meter, so
the reader feels the words as he or she reads them. The book also celebrates
diversity in its illustrations as it features not only different animals, but also
children of different ethic and racial background and abilities.
Henkes, Kevin. Lilly’s Purple Plastic Purse. New York: Greenwillow, 2006.
Lilly loves school, and she loves her new purple purse that plays music when
opened. So she has a hard time containing her excitement to share. When
Lilly does not wait until recess or show-and-tell time, Lilly finds trouble.
Henkes adds lots of whimsical details to the story, so the reader pictures
himself or herself in a similar situation. The movement between dialogue and
text is seamless: the dialogue is so natural, the reader can hear it. The book
also formats the print to add to the meaning of the text, such as Lilly’s
comical illustration of her teacher. Henkes also includes sage motto for
anyone having a bad day: “Today was a difficult day. Tomorrow will be
better.”
Hurd, Thacher. Santa Mouse and the Ratdeer. New York: Scholastic, 1998.
Santa Mouse is having a rough Christmas Eve in this comical satire.
However, some thoughtfulness by Rosie helps Santa Mouse and the ratdeer
continue their holiday traditions. Hurd puts a twist on ‘Twas the Night Before
Christmas by adding technical difficulties with the sleigh and six crabby
ratdeer. Thought bubbles above the ratdeers’ and Santa Mouse’s head give
the reader a peek into the mood of the characters.
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Inkpen, Mick. Nothing. New York: Orchard, 1995.
Nothing is left behind when his family moves, and he is now on a quest to
find himself. Who is he? Inkpen incorporates questions into his text to
directly include the reader in the search for answers and to build expectations
of the story. The story is full of complex sentences dealing with description,
but the majority of the dialogue is simple and straightforward.
Johnson, D. B. Henry Hikes to Fitchburg. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 2000.
Henry and his friend compete to see who can make it to Fitchburg first. The
separate journeys of the two bears are told in great detail, providing lots of
opportunities for money, comparison, and timeline activities. The story is
structured in a “he did, but he did” format that clearly lays out the experience
of each bear.
Jenkins, Steve. Biggest, Strongest, Fastest. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1995.
Biggest, Strongest, Fastest highlights the biggest and best, smallest and fastest
of animals. Each page includes one fact prominently and a collage
illustrations of the animals. In smaller print are less important facts that
support the main point of each page.
Juster, Norton. The Hello, Goodbye Window. New York: Michael Di Capua, 2005.
There is a special window at Nonna’s and Poppy’s house that is really an
opening to all things fun and imaginative! Inside the window are funny faces,
games, and safety – all the things that make a child warm and fuzzy: outside
are stars, dinosaurs, and adventure! The author splashes “and” and “or” all
over the text, creating a story with endless possibilities. Dialogue is sprinkled
in, giving the text a fun, irreverent feel.
Marcellino, Fred. I, Crocodile. New York: Michael Di Capua, 1999.
I, Crocodile is the story of one crocodile’s life experiences from Egypt to
Paris. However, in all the excitement, the crocodile has one main concern:
where his next meal is. The constant attention to his appetite creates a
hilarious contrast to his surroundings. In addition to the story’s ironic
elements and expressive illustrations, the first person narrative really makes
this story fun and engages the reader.
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Mollel, Tololwa M. Shadow Dance. New York: Clarion, 1998.
Set in Africa, Salome saves a crocodile only to have it turn on her. When
Salome calls the crocodile ungrateful, he polls the nearby animals for a reason
not to eat a little girl. It is up to Salome to find a way to save herself. The
story reads like a folk tale with all the attention to plot. The text contains
some elements of personification and is an excellent example of the use of
“and” within a story. The dialogue between the characters flows smoothly,
and it uses repeated sentence patterns to help the reader anticipate the story.
Scieszka, Jon. The True Story of the Three Little Pigs! By A. Wolf. New York: Viking, 1989.
This spoof tells the popular folk tale “The Three Little Pigs” from the wolf’s
side. Alexander T. Wolf explains that he was just looking for a cup of sugar
when he visited the pigs’ houses one by one. He had a nasty cold, so when he
sneezed the pigs’ houses just blew over. A. Wolf insists the traditional story
is just a result of sensational journalism. Scieszka’s story follows the repeated
structure of the original tale yet adds humor through new details. His
sentence fragments, for offhand comments, and onomatopoeia make this story
a mandatory read aloud. The illustrator, Lane Smith, weaves the text into her
illustrations making them part of the story.
Shields, Carol Diggory. Lucky Pennies and Hot Chocolate. New York: Dutton, 2000.
Someone’s looking forward to a visit from his favorite person. This story,
told in the first-person, talks all about his favorite things to do. The
unexpected ending will bring a smile to the reader’s face! In some parts it
shows the print matching or highlighting the text. It also uses sentence
fragments and neologisms (made-up words), making the story seem as if the
character was talking directly to the reader.
Strete, Craig Kee. The Lost Boy and the Monster. New York: G. P. Putnam’s Sons, 1999.
The Lost Boy makes friend with a rattlesnake and a scorpion through his
kindness. In return they help him escape from Old Foot Eater. Strete uses
many long complex sentences, but it is written so well that when it is read
aloud, the reader seems to be telling the story – not as if it comes from the
book. She expertly melds two adjective combinations in her descriptions and
uses “and” instead of commas to create suspense in areas referencing the
monster and rope trap.
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Yolen, Jane. How Do Dinosaurs Say Good Night? New York: Blue Sky, 2000.
In a poem like story, this book tells us how dinosaurs go to bed when their
parents come to turn out the light. A great multi-cultural book, it features a
different dinosaur and different parents (of differing race and sex) on each
page. The rhyme scheme from page to page makes the text blend well. Yolen
uses questions within her text to move the story along and create a natural
progression throughout the story.
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