Compiled by Carol Simon Levin, Somerset County Library System
The following titles are extraordinary books – worth knowing about and sharing with your kids regardless of the “theme-of-the-week.” Some of these are strictly non-fiction; others convey information within a fictional setting. Some of these titles are catalogued in the non-fiction section (by Dewey Decimal number -- which is where you will find other books on the same subject), while others (both fictional and very simple non-fiction) have been catalogued in the picture book section by author. Age ranges also vary – titles suitable for preschool classes are marked with an *.
If you are looking for specific titles to use with your themes, librarians will be delighted to assist you. We have Storytime Theme Kits already prepared on many subjects, and will also be happy to locate (or help you to locate) booklists, books and curriculum guides. Books Kids Will Sit Still For (J Ready Reference 011.62 FRE) is an excellent resource to turn to for sure-fire read-alouds. Each entry describes a book and suggests activities to try and related books to use. We also subscribe to an online resource called NoveList K-8 Plus which you can use to find books and picture book extender activities as well as booklists (including new Common Core booklists) on many subjects and then place holds on our copies – all from the comfort of your own home at any time of the day (or night). Let us show you how it works!
Kofi and His Magic by Maya Angelou (J916.67 ANG) Summary: A young Ashanti boy describes some of the wonders of his life in and around the West African village of Bonwire in this delightful celebration of cross-cultural friendship written by poet Maya Angelou and beautifully photo-illustrated by Margaret Courtney-Clarke. Also check out their My Painted House, My Friendly Chicken, and Me (J916.8 ANG) THEMES: FRIENDSHIP, COMMUNITY, MULTICULTURAL. For more books on friendship in communities around the world, take a look at Children Around the World* (J305.23 MON), Be My Neighbor* (J307.3 AJM), All Kinds of Children* (J305.23 SIM), Kindergarten Day China and USA* (J372.218 MAR), What We Wear: Dressing Up Around the World*(J391 AJM), 14 Cows for America (J916.762 DEE). Share a few words in different languages with What is Your Language?*(J400 LEV), Can You Count Ten Toes?* (J413 EVA), Table-Chair-Bear: A Book in Many Languages* (J413 FED), and the Count Your Way COUNTRY NAME series (various call numbers) and other country-specific titles plus the books in our world language collections. To give your children an introduction to the Civil Rights movement in this country, share Sit In: How Four Friends Stood Up by Sitting Down (J323.1196 PIN), Martin’s Big Words (JBiog KING), and This is the Dream (J811.6 SHO).
You and Me Together: Moms, Dads, and Kids Around the World* by Barbara Kerley (Picture Book KERLEY) Summary: Loving moms, dads, and kids share their lives in this gorgeous international photo essay. See also the author’s The World is Waiting for You*, One World One Day* (J 305.23 KER), A Little Peace* (Picture Book KERLEY), and A Cool Drink of Water* (J363.61 KER) THEMES: FAMILIES, MULTICULTUAL. Follow with Families* (J306.85 MOR), My Family* (J306.85 KIN), The Great Big Book of Families* (J306.85 HOF), Families in Many Cultures* (J306.85 ADA), and Todd Parr’s various family titles including The Family Book* (Picture Book PARR). There are sign language words for family members in Family and Friends* (J419.7 PET). (We also have some wonderful sign language and multicultural DVDs.) Broaden your theme to the places people live with Houses and Homes* (J363.5 MOR), If You Lived Here (J363.36 LAR), and the building poems in Dreaming Up* (Picture HALE).
Friends: True Stories of Extraordinary Animal Friendships* by Catherine Thimmesh (J591.5 THI) Summary: Wonderful pictures, short rhymes and simple explanations celebrate some amazing animal companionships. THEMES: FRIENDSHIP, ANIMALS, LOSS, NON-TRADITIONAL FAMILIES. Follow with A Mama for Owen* (Picture Book BAUER) or Mama: A True Story in Which a Baby Hippo Loses his Mama During the Tsunami, but Finds a New Home and a New Mama* (Picture Book WINTER) then show the two Owen & Mzee books (J599.635 HATKOFF) to see photographs and learn more details about this remarkable friendship. Other pairs are profiled in Tarra & Bella: The Elephant and Dog Who Became Best Friends (J699.676 BUC) and Kate & Pippin (J599.65 SPR). Winter’s Tail: How One Little Dolphin Learned to Swim Again (J599.533 HAT) which relates how a dolphin who lost her tail learned to swim with a prosthetic makes a great lead-in to help your students understand physical disabilities. If the issue of death comes up in your classroom (whether relating to a person or an animal), share the gentle and thoughtful book Lifetimes: A Beautiful Way to Explain Death to Children* (J155.937 MELLONIE).
An Egg is Quiet* by Dianna Hutts Aston, illustrated by Sylvia Long (J591.468 AST) Summary: This gorgeous book with two levels of text introduces readers to an array of egg facts. THEMES: EGGS, BIRDS, SCIENCE, NATURE, ENVIRONMENT, HABITATS. Introduce your children to the wide variety of other egg-layers with Chickens Aren’t The Only Ones* (Picture HELLER) and play a guessing game with Guess What Is Growing Inside This Egg?* (J591.468 POS). Help kids explore the natural world around them with Whose House is This? A Look at Animal Homes – Webs, Nests, and Shells* (J591.564 GRE), See Me Grow (J591.3 ARL), I See a Kookaburra! Discovering Animal Habitats* (J591.7 JEN) and How to Be a Nature Detective* (J590 SEL). Look at specific animal habitats with In the Woods: Who’s Been Here* (Picture Book GEORGE), Redwoods (J585.5 CHI) and In the Small Small Pond* and In the Tall Tall Grass (both Picture Book FLEMING).*
Ocean Sunlight: How Tiny Plants Feed the Seas by Molly Bang & Penny Chilsholm (J571.455 BAN) Summary: This joyous book describes how all ocean life forms a web that uses sunshine. THEMES: OCEAN, HABITATS, NATURE, ECOSYSTEM. Dive down into this marvelous ecosystem with the singable Somewhere in the Ocean* (Picture Book WARD) and Over in the Ocean* (Picture Book BERKES), Into the A, B, SEA* (Picture ROSE), I Spy Under the Sea* (Picture Book GIBBS), The Fantastic Undersea Life of Jacques Cousteau or Manfish (both JBiog COUSTEAU), Coral Reefs* (J577.789 GIB) (J577.789 CHI), One Less Fish (Picture Book TOFT), Oceans*(J578.77 SIL), Out of the Ocean* (Picture Book FRASIER), and Down, Down, Down (J591.779 JEN).
All the Water in the World* by George Ella Lyon (Picture Book LYON) Summary: A simple, yet powerful and beautiful introduction to the water cycle. THEMES: WEATHER, WATER, CONSERVATION.
Drip, Drop! How Water Gets to Your Tap (J628.1 SEU) and What is the Water Cycle? (J551.48 LAW) explain the water cycle along with experiments about water filtration, evaporation, and condensation. Water Dance* (Picture Book LOCKER) and On the Same Day in March (J551.6 SIN) take a poetic look at water and weather around the world. For the bigger weather picture, share the simple book What’s the Weather Today?* (J551.6 FOW) or the more detailed What Will the Weather Be? (J551.6 DEW). It’s Snowing* (J551.5784 GIB) is a fun and fact-filled look at everyone’s favorite excuse for a day off school!
Our Seasons* by Grace Lin and Ranida T. McKneally (J508.2 LIN) Summary: Questions (with answers) arouse children’s curiosity about the seasons of the year. THEMES: SEASONS, NATURE. A simpler text accompanies the photo essay Every Season* (Picture Book ROTNER). Browse the 508’s for other great books addressing each season including Awesome Autumn* (J508.2 GOL), Fall* (or other season) (J508.2 WHI) set up in a question and answer format, and How Do You Know It Is Season Name?)* (J508.2 OWE). Explain where the animals have gone with Why Do Geese Fly South in Winter? (J591.568 ALL) and Why Do Bears Sleep all Winter? (J591.565 ENG). Your children can also begin to learn the science behind why we even have seasons with On Earth (Picture Book KARAS), Seasons (J508.2 SIP), Sunlight* (J551.527 EDI), and Sunshine Makes the Seasons (J508.2 BRA). Speaking of sunshine, your kids can learn about shadows in What Makes a Shadow?* (J535.4 BUL) then have fun playing the guessing games in What’s That Shadow?* (J535.4 HAR) or Guess Whose Shadow?* (Picture Book SWINBURNE).
Seed to Sunflower* by Camilla de la Bédoyère (J583 DEL) Summary: The life cycle of a sunflower is detailed in clear text and gorgeous photos.
THEMES: LIFE CYCLES, NATURE, PLANTS.Help your children notice how plants are changing with the seasons – share A Seed is Sleepy* (J581.467 AST) The Life Cycle of an Apple Tree* (J582.73 TAG), Fall Apples: Crisp and Juicy* (J634.11 RUS), Fall Leaves Colorful & Crunchy* (J581.48 RUS), Pumpkin Circle (J635.62 LEV), Red Leaf, Yellow Leaf* (Picture Book EHLERT). Why Do Leaves Change Color? (J582.16 MAE), and The Secret Life of Trees (J582.16 CHE). Get their artistic juices flowing with Leaf Man* (Picture Book EHLERT). For a gorgeous introduction to the interconnected web of our planet, share Living Sunlight: How Plants Bring the Earth to Life (J572.46 BAN).
Earth Dance* by Joanne Ryder, illustrated by Norman Gorbaty (J811.54 RYD)
Summary: Readers are asked to imagine what it’s like to be the earth in this gorgeous poetic celebration of our planet. THEMES: EARTH, ENVIRONMENT, SEASONS. I Love Our Earth* (J525 MAR), Earthsong* (Picture Book ROGERS), and The Earth and I* (Picture Book ASCH) are other good choices. Leopard & Silkie (J599.79 PET) tells the story of a boy who helps save seal pups. Wangari’s Trees of Peace* or Mama Miti (both JBiog MAATHAI), The Mangrove Tree (J577.568 ROT) and The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind (JBiog KAMKWAMBA) show how an individual person can create real environmental change. Help your youngest to become good earth stewards with Let’s Recycle (J J363.7282 MAC).
Jaguar in the Rain Forest by Joanne Ryder (Picture Book RYDER)Summary: The reader spends a day as a jaguar, experiencing the life of this rain forest animal. This is one of a series of “Just for a Day” books. THEMES: ANIMALS, RAINFOREST, CONSERVATION. Other noteworthy rainforest titles include The Great Kapok Tree* (Picture Book CHERRY), Welcome to the Green House* (J574.5 YOLAN), Rain, Rain, Rain Forest (J577.34 GUI), Rain Forest Secrets (J577.34 DOR), and the wonderfully singable Over in the Jungle* (Picture Book BERKES)* and The Rainforest Grew All Around* (J578.734 MIT). Fernando’s Gift/El Regalo de Fernando (J Foreign Language KEI) personalizes the destruction of the trees (in two languages) while Red Eyed Tree Frog* (J597.87 COW) and Chameleon, Chameleon* (J597.596 COW) give a close-up view of some residents. Mix in some poetry with Looking for Jaguar & other Rain Forest Poems* (J811.54 KAT) and compare with some other arboreal ecosystems with One Small Place in a Tree (J577.3 BRE), Tree of Life: The World of the African Baobob (J583 BAS) and Desert Giant: The World of the Saguaro Cactus (J583.47 BAS).
Move!* By Steve Jenkins and Robin Page (J573.79 JEN)Summary: Kids will love acting out the action words with the animals in Steve Jenkins’ wonderful cut-paper-illustrated book. Check out his other fascinating and fact-filled books including What do you do with a Tail Like This?* (J573.87 JEN), Big and Little* (J591.4 JEN) and Actual Size* (J591.41 JEN). THEMES: ANIMALS, ANIMAL CHARACTERISTICS. Encourage kids to look more closely at animals with Creature ABC* (Picture Book ZUCKERMAN), Who Has These Feet?* (J591.479 HUL), Animal Tongues (J591.44 CUS), Spot the Difference: Noses* (J591.44 NUN), Stripes of all Stripes* (Picture Book STOCKDALE), Animals in Camouflage* (J591.472 TIL), and Spot the Animals: A Lift-the-Flap Book of Colors* (Picture Book SPOT). They will love playing the silly games in Do You Know Which Ones Will Grow?* (Picture Book SHEA), Do Lions Live on Lily Pads*, Do Donkeys Dance?* and Do Monkeys Tweet?* (all Picture Book WALSH). Check out all the different animals who can swim in Elephants Swim* (Picture Book RILEY) then discover the amazing pachyderm talent in Elephants Can Paint Too!* (J599.67 ARN).
Dinosaurs Roar, Butterflies Soar* by Bob Barner (J565.78 BAR) Summary: This lively two-level text illustrated with vibrant paper-collages offers a wonderful look at the amazing history of how the lives of dinosaurs and butterflies intersected millions of years ago. THEMES: DINOSAURS, NATURAL HISTORY, EVOLUTION. Your students will also love 1-2-3 Dinosaurs Bite!* (BOARD AMERICA), Did Dinosaurs Eat Pizza? Mysteries Science Hasn’t Solved* (J567.9 HOR), Prehistoric Actual Size* (J560 JEN), Boy Were We Wrong About Dinosaurs (J567.9 KUD), What Happened to the Dinosaurs?* (J567.9 OLI), How the Dinosaur Got to the Museum* (J567.9 HAR), Bones, Bones, Dinosaur Bones* and Dinosaurs, Dinosaurs* (both Picture Book BARTON), Inside-Outside Dinosaurs* (J567.9 MUN), How Big Were the Dinosaurs?* (J567.91 MOS), Did Dinosaurs Have Feathers? (J568.22 ZOE), Dinosaur Tracks* (J567.9 ZOE) and Dino-Dinners* (J567.9 MAN).
Bugs For Lunch* by Margery Facklam (J591.53 FAC)
Summary: Rhyming text introduces bug-eating animals such as geckos, trout, and even people. Includes additional facts about each creature. THEMES: INSECTS, NATURE, SCIENCE, FOOD. A clever book illustrating what animals eat is Eats* (Picture Book Jocelyn), Whose Food is This?* (J591.53 ALL) provides more information in a guessing game format. Your kids may also enjoy naming the insects and singing along with Over in the Garden*(Picture Book WARD), learning what makes an insect in Butterfly, Flea, Beetle and Bee (J595.7 CLE) and watching caterpillars hatch in Waiting for Wings (Picture Book EHLERT) and A Butterfly is Patient (J595.789 AST).
What Happens to a Hamburger? by Paul Showers (J612.3 SHO) Summary: Explains the processes by which a hamburger and other foods are used to make energy, strong bones, and solid muscles as they pass through the digestive system. THEMES: HUMAN BODY, DIGESTION. Other titles to help children understand their body, health and hygiene include Why I Sneeze, Shiver, Hiccup, and Yawn (J612.74 BER), Too Hot? Too Cold? (J612.014 ARN), Why Do I Sleep?* (J612.821 ROY), My Lively Heart and Lungs* (J612.17 TAY), Wash, Scrub, Brush!* (J613.4 MAN). Do some “hands-on” explorations with the experiments in Splish, Splosh! Why Do We Wash? (J532 LOB) and Sounds all Around (J534 PFE) then have children compare their own movements with animals using On the Move* (J612.76 HEL).
What is Science?* by Rebecca Kai Dotlich (Picture Book DOTLICH) Summary: Engaging introduction to the many topics in science, such as stars, planets, rocks, soil, sea, earthquakes, and trees. THEMES: SCIENCE, NATURE, EXPERIMENTS. Other interesting books that look at science and scientists and things that it may not have occurred to your kids to even ask about include What is a Scientist?* (J502.3 LEH), Scientists ask Questions* (J507.8 GAR), The First Big Book of Why (J031.02 SHI), Stars Beneath Your Bed: The Surprising Story of Dust (551.5113 SAY) and Just a Second (J529 JEN). A Second is a Hiccup (J529 HUT), Telling Time (J529.7 OLD), and It’s about Time (Picture Book MURPHY) will help your kids understand time. Jump into geologic time in A Rock is Lively (J552 AST) and If You Find a Rock (J552 CHR). Forces Make Things Move (J531.6 BRA), Around and Around* (J531.34 MUR) and Back and Forth* (J531.32 MUR) are basic science concept books. Try some “hands-on” science experiments from Science Play! : Beginning Discoveries for 2- to 6-year-olds (JP-T 507.8 HAU), I Fall Down* (J5311.14 COB), Water and Floating* (J532 EVA), Touch It!* (J530 MAS), Experiments with Soap (J530.42), Pull and Push (J531.113 HEW), and What Makes a Magnet? (J538.4 BRA).
Food for Thought: the Complete Book of Concepts for Growing Minds* by Saxton Freymann (Picture Book FREYMANN) Summary: Presents carved vegetables and fruits to illustrate basic shapes, colors, numbers, letters, and opposites. THEMES: CONCEPT BOOKS, SHAPES, COLORS, NUMBERS, LETTERS, OPPOSITES, FOOD. Check out his other clever titles including How Are You Peeling?: Foods with Moods* (Picture Book FREYMANN). A simpler book on emotions is Glad Monster Sad Monster* (Picture Book EMBERLY). Continue the food theme with Growing Vegetable Soup* (Picture Book EHLERT) and Growing Colors* (Picture Book MCMILLAN). Other good books for concept-learning include the wordless Colors Everywhere* (Picture Book HOBAN) which presents color-bars and will have your children searching for those colors in the beautiful photographs, the innovative Lemons are Not Red and Black? White, Day, Night! A Book of Opposites* (both Picture Book SEEGER), Exactly the Opposite (Picture Book HOBAN), and Small Medium Large* (Picture Book JENKINS). Children will also enjoy guessing what the object is in Mouse Views: What the Class Pet Saw* (Picture Book McMILLAN). My Five Senses* (612.8 MILLER) and My Five Senses* (Picture Book ALIKI) are simple books about how we perceive things. Combine them with books celebrating a child’s body including Busy Fingers* (Picture Book BOWIE)* and Here are My Hands* (Picture Book MARTIN). Reinforce colors and numbers while empowering your children to stand up to bullies with One* (Picture Book OTOSHI).
Older Than the Stars by Karen C. Fox (J523.1 FOX) and Big Bang: The Tongue-Tickling Tale of the Speck that Became Spectacular (J531.18 DEC) Summary: These clever mind-expanding books introduce young readers to the mind-boggling idea of the age of the universe. THEMES: SPACE, SPACE TRAVEL, MOON, BIG BANG THEORY, SCIENCE, HISTORY. Meanwhile On This Spot: An Expedition Back Through Time (J974.71 GOO) takes readers on a trip from modern day New York City back to the time of the dinosaurs and If You Decide To Go To The Moon (J629.454 MCN) takes the reader on a trip to the moon. Younger kids, will enjoy I Want to Be an Astronaut* (Picture Book BARTON). Earthbound books about transportation include Truck* (Picture Book CREWS) and Machines at Work* (Picture Book BARTON).
Great reviews of "un-common" science picture books: http://www.smartbooksforsmartkids.com/20-best-science-books-children-2014/ (site has great reviews & author interviews in general)
Sample Program using concept of UnCommon Core:
Featuring homes for animals and people which incorporates:
fiction and non-fiction, music, the concepts of color and shape,
and participatory storytelling of a classic folktale.
Note: This is a long program, not all elements may be done with all age groups,
(or it could be split up into a week of thematic programming in a preschool.)
Book: Blue Rabbit and Friends by Christopher Wormell (Alt: No Place Like Home by Jonathan Emmett)
“Here’s a story of mouse looking for a house of her own…”
Flannel: Mouse House (concepts: colors & shapes) (mouse finger puppet, flannel shapes as per script)
Fingerplay: Quiet Mouse (click here for text of all songs, fingerplays, and flannels)
Book (Interactive Non-Fiction): Who’s House is This? -- 591.564 GREG (may not read all the details with pre-schoolers) (Alts: Castles, Caves, and Honeycombs by Linda Ashman, or Have You Ever Seen a Stork Build a Log Cabin? – 591.564 Kaner)
Flannel/Song: A Squirrel Lives in the Tree (musical reinforcement of above book)
Book: Raise the Roof by Anastasia Suen (fiction with non-fiction elements: sequence of building a house; extend vocabulary: asking children who puts in the pipes? “plumber”, what are wires for? “electricity” etc.) (Alts: Jack’s House by Karen Magnuson Beil or I Can Build a House by Shigeo Watanabe)
Song: New House and/or action: Building a House
Book: A Squash & a Squeeze by Julia Donaldson (retelling of a classic folktale, repetitive refrain which children can say with librarian)
Action Song: In and Out of Doors by Susan Dailey http://www.susanmdailey.com/houses.htm
and/or Participatory/Action Storytelling: Act out traditional story: The Three Little Pigs (Supplies: 3 pigs and wolf puppets (laminated enlarged clip art mounted on chopsticks), yellow, brown, and red sheets of paper photocopied with “straw”, “sticks”, and “bricks” patterns, optional parachute.)
Hand out pigs & wolf puppets to child volunteers. As narrator tells story (one house built and blown down at a time), the rest of the children pick up appropriate paper "building materials" and stand around first one, then two, then all three pigs (my telling has the pigs escaping to the next pig's house, not being eaten) under a parachute held by adults. Adults shake parachute as the wolf "huffs & puffs" and children are urged to "fall down" when the wolf “blew the house down.” (Kids help narrator with the lines "Little pig(s), little pig(s), let me come in." "Not by the hair on my/our chinny-chin-chin(s)!" "Then I'll huff & I'll puff & I'll blow your house in!") At the end, narrator can either have the wolf sliding down into a pot of boiling water, loudly yelling "ouch" and running away (Susan Dailey's suggestion) or use the more traditional (bloodthirsty) version.
Video/DVD: Reading Rainbow: Desert Giant (non-fiction connection) (Alts: The Three Little Pigs (Weston Woods, long --11 minutes), Reading Rainbow: Is this a House for Hermit Crab? or Changes, Changes by Pat Hutchins on Stories for the Very Young v.2)
Close with Singable Book: A House is a House for Me by Mary Ann Hoberman (music: track 7 on Fred Penner’s album “Collections”)
Hand stamping music: Fred Penner’s album “Collections”
Display for take-home: Fiction and non-fiction titles (591.564, 728) on the subject of animal and human homes (including other versions of The Three Little Pigs). For other titles, see the contents of our Houses & Homes Storytime Theme Kit.