Monday, July 27, 2009

Mentor Monday: So Many Books, So Little Time

Last Monday, Diane talked about the critical role reading plays in writing development. If you're not doing some professional reading every single day, you're not doing enough professional reading. If you're strapped for time, a good place to start your professional reading is where you started in the first place -- with picture books. You can explore all the elements of what makes a good story, and you'll do it in the time it takes to read 32 short pages. Less than that, really, if you consider several of those pages are taken up with front and back matter.

I ran across a list of the Top 10 Children's Books of 2008 at the
Time/CNN website. It was compiled by Amy Lennard Goehner and is made up entirely of picture books. (That fact is a reminder that when civilians hear the term "children's books," they automatically think picture books, which is probably why Goehner limited her list to picture books. A quick Google search found that Goehner actually edited several sports-themed books for middle graders for Bantam Doubleday Dell Books for Young Readers, so she is very much aware that children's literature isn't confined to picture books. Which is neither here nor there. Unless you, as a writer, think only picture books when you think children's books. If that's the case, you might still be a civilian.)

Anyway, I thought you could add these books to the reading lists you're compiling. Not because I necessarily think they're the best books of 2008, but because these books make a good starting point for your list of books to read with a hypercritical eye. Goehner does a good job defending her choices, and it will be interesting to see if you agree with her after reading the books for yourself.
  1. The Pencil by Allan Ahlberg and Bruce Ingman
  2. Big Words for Little People by Jamie Lee Curtis and Laura Cornell
  3. Bats at the Library by Brian Lies
  4. Splat the Cat by Rob Scotton
  5. Oodles of Animals by Lois Ehlert
  6. Too Many Toys by David Shannon
  7. The Pout-Pout Fish by Deborah Diesen and Dan Hanna
  8. Alphabet by Matthew Van Fleet
  9. Help Me. Mr. Mutt by Janet Stevens and Susan Stevens Crummel
  10. The Umbrella Queen by Shirin Yim Bridges and Taeeun Yoo
Make it a goal to read 100 picture books in the month of August, including the 10 from Goehner's list. After, write up your own top 10 list, just to discover what appeals to you personally. Read another 100 in September, then revise the list. Which titles stayed on your list? Which got bumped? Do this each month through December, and you'll have read 500 picture books, which is a good start.

If you're looking for more lists, you'll find a Top 100 Picture Book list at the School Library Journal website. You can also check these out from the National Education Association: Teachers' Top 100 Books for Children compiled in 2007 and Kids' Top 100 Books for Children compiled in 1999.
The teachers' list would make for a great discussion (or argument) starter at your next critique group meeting!

NOTE: Why did I include a picture of Duck and Goose by Tad Hills when it's not among the top 10 in any of the lists I've cited? Because it's on my Top 10 Picture Book List, along with these beauties by Audrey and Don Wood.


Jet said...

Excellent post, Andy. I'm not sure I can do 100 PBs a month, but I may set myself a goal for kids' novels . . .


Andy said...

Thanks, Janet! I tend to get carried away. 100 picture books in a month won't be feasible for everybody. It's something to shoot for, though!