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Grandma in Blue with Red Hat by Scott Menchin. Illustrated by Harry Bliss. Abrams, 2015

An art teacher asks a boy and his classmates touring a museum to consider why various pieces are on display: What makes them art? “Because it’s beautiful,” says Alice about one painting. “Because it came from somewhere far away,” says Thomas about another. “Because it’s different.” “Because it tells a story.” “Because it makes me feel good.” “Because it’s funny.” That night the boy thinks about his classmates’ observations, and about what the teacher said, “Anything can be in an art exhibition.” And then he thinks about his Grandma, who is different, funny, tells him stories, makes him feel good, and comes from far away. “I should give Grandma to the museum!” Alas, the museum director explains, they don’t accept Grandmas. A playful yet probing narrative is paired with illustrations blending cartoon styling with renditions of the real works of art that inspire the students’ thinking and creativity. The African American boy at story’s center goes on to paint a whimsical series in tribute to his Grandma.  © Cooperative Children’s Book Center

  1. Pre-reading: What is art?
  2. Do you recognize some of the paintings and sculptures in the book?
  3. Why do you think text appears in two formats?
  4. After reading this book, how has your understanding of art and making art changed?

I, Fly: The Buzz About Flies and How Awesome They Are by Bridget Heos. Illustrated by Jennifer Plecas. Henry Holt, 2015

The fly narrating this informative picture book is full of enthusiasm, not to mention knowledge, eager to convince a class studying butterflies that flies are just as worthy a subject. “Here’s how the story goes: My 500 brothers and sisters and I started out as eggs. Our mom tucked us into a warm, smelly bed of dog doo.” The fly’s impromptu lecture (it came in through the window during a science class) is followed by a Q-and-A session, with the fly dispelling misinformation about its species. Bridget Heos’s funny, factual narrative (well, except for the talking fly) is perfectly matched by Jennifer Plecas’s clean-lined, cartoon-like illustrations.  © Cooperative Children’s Book Center

  1. How does the fly show us the difference between facts and myths?
  2. What information about flies do you find most interesting in this book?
  3. In what ways are flies and butterflies alike? different?

Find more resources for Grandma in Blue with Red Hat and I, Fly: The Buzz About Flies and How Awesome They Are at TeachingBooks.net!

Mango, Abuela, and Me by Meg Medina. Illustrated by Angela Dominguez. Candlewick Press, 2015

Mia doesn’t speak Spanish well and her abuela, who has come to live with Mia’s family, doesn’t speak English well. They share a room, and Abuela watches Mia after school, but there is a lot of silence. Then Mia begins teaching her grandmother English words, even labeling things at home like they sometimes do in her classroom at school, and Abuela teaches Mia Spanish words. The locked door between them starts to open. It opens wider when Mia sees a parrot at the pet shop and the family buys it for Abuela, who had a pet parrot back home. By story’s end, Abuela is reading Mia her favorite book, and telling stories “about Abuelo, who could dive for river stones with a single breath and weave a roof out of palms.” A warm picture book story that has some lovely turns of phrase and integrates Spanish words into the English text is set against cheery illustrations.  © Cooperative Children’s Book Center

  • Talk: How do you say hello, goodbye, and I love you without words?
  • Sing: Visit your library and listen to songs in Spanish.
  • Write: Draw a picture of yourself with a grandparent or a favorite adult.
  • Play: Visit your library and find more bilingual books.
  • Math or Science: Taste a mango! Is it sweet, sour, tangy?

One Family by George Shannon. Illustrated by Blanca Gómez. Frances Foster Books / Farrar Straus Giroux, 2015

An unusual, conceptually sophisticated counting book looks at the way the number “one” can be represented by a single object, a pair of items, or a group of things varying in number from three all the way up to 10. For every number from two to 10, “one” is also a group with that many members. “One is three. One house of bears. One bowl of pears … One is five. One bunch of bananas. One hand of cards.” The narrative works hand-in-hand with the illustrations, with each page spread featuring a scene in which everything named can be found and counted (e.g., a family of three walking down a street in which one building they pass has a bowl with three pears in the window and a toy shop with a window display featuring the three bears in a doll house). While the art has a nostalgic feel, there is multicultural and intergenerational diversity within and across the families, all of whom are shown together on the final page spread: “One is one and everyone. One earth. One world. One family.”  © Cooperative Children’s Book Center

  • Talk: Who is in your family? Name them all.
  • Sing: A counting song.
  • Write: How old are you? How many different ways can you show this number using different objects?
  • Play: Hopscotch
  • Math or Science: Count the groupings on each page. What kinds of groups can you find in your world?

The New Small Person by Lauren Child. Candlewick Press, 2015

Elmore Green enjoys being an only child. He doesn’t have to worry about anyone messing with his stuff, and “Elmore Green’s parents thought he was simply the funniest, cleverest, most adorable person they had ever seen.” When a “new small person” arrives, Elmore Green’s perfectly ordered life is turned upside down. “They all seemed to like it … maybe a little bit MORE than they liked Elmore Green.” As the new small person gets bigger, he disrupts Elmore’s things, he licks Elmore’s jelly beans, he follows Elmore around, he moves into Elmore’s room. It’s awful, until the night Elmore has a bad dream and the small person comforts him. Not long after, Elmore is arranging his precious things in a long line, and the small person is adding his own things to the effort. “It felt good to have someone there who understood why a long line of things was SO special.” And it turns out that this small person has a name: Albert. A fresh, funny take on a familiar family scenario features two brown-skinned brothers in droll, spirited illustrations that are a perfect match for the narrative’s tone. Lauren Child’s story is joyful even as it acknowledges the very real feelings of frustration and uncertainty that come with a new sibling. Honor Book, 2016 Charlotte Zolotow Award  © Cooperative Children’s Book Center

  • Talk: Talk about your favorite things. Do you share them with others?
  • Sing: Choose a song. Sing it loudly. Sing it quietly. Sing it in a silly way.
  • Write: Draw a picture of your favorite things.
  • Play: Share your favorite toys with a friend.
  • Math or Science: How many are in your family? Do you think it’s a big or small family?

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