WRB—Jan. 2023 Children’s Literature Supplement
The holiday festivities may be over, but fear not: The CLS is here to keep these gray, cold January days at bay.
Sarah started out this Supplement in fine form, ready to tell all the good people her picks for President’s Day reading . . . only to discover that President’s Day is, in fact, not January 16th. Indeed, it’s in a completely different month, and she nearly did Martin Luther King Jr. a dreadful disservice. To satisfy all parties, she’s included recommendations below for both the civil-rights activist and a few titles if you feel the need to plan ahead for February 20th.
Martin Luther King Jr. Day:
The ever-prepared Childhood of Famous Americans series comes in clutch for just about any famous U.S. figure you could wish to read about. Don’t miss their biography of MLK (Martin Luther King, Jr.: Young Man with a Dream, 1986), and definitely explore their other titles as interest or season dictates.
President’s Day . . . a bit early:
Again, don’t miss the Childhood of Famous Americans biographies for this occasion. Presidents’ Day (as Sarah thankfully learned) was originally solely dedicated to George Washington, but can also be combined with the celebration of Abraham Lincoln’s birthday. Kid-friendly (but not dumbed-down) biographies of both of these great men can be found in the aforementioned series.
For presidential stories guaranteed to engage children—and adults—through its stunning artwork, consider tracking down Beautiful Feet Books’ editions of Edgar and Ingri D’Aulaire’s George Washington (1963) and Abraham Lincoln (1939).
Continuing the Americana:
Not only did the D’Aulaires give us these incredible presidential biographies, they also also graced us with stunning works of American stories:
Their research process was possibly even more arduous. They would spend hundreds of hours reading, traveling and sketching before they even started writing or creating their illustrations. When they wrote about Christopher Columbus, they traveled through Italy, Spain and Portugal to see the places he had lived and toured the Caribbean islands he landed on when he crossed the ocean. While researching Lincoln, they sketched dozens of the faces they found in old photographs at the Springfield library and used them to fill in the crowds of people in their drawings.
Read the whole article to learn more about this talented couple, in particular the time-intensive manner in which they created their artwork for each book.
Curriculum specialist Cathy Duffy also reviews the D’Aulaires’ books, and while many of us may know their most famous work—The D’Aulaires’ Book of Greek Myths (1967)—she fills us in a few more of their other treasures.
A pivotal moment in Sarah’s homeschool career was when she did American history using the books of Holling C. Holling. History lessons and facts connected to Tree in the Trail (1942), Minn of the Mississippi (1951), Paddle-to-the-Sea (1941), and others still come back to her, and she’s recently been listening to her youngest sibling make those same connections.
Beautiful by design:
Chris sent Sarah a NYT link detailing the interesting specimens that are picture book endpapers, which prompted a trip down the rabbit hole. Apparently, Atlas Obscura covered a bit of this topic a few years ago, and a whole book has even been written on this very subject.
A prime example of clever end-paper use is in Mo Willams’s Elephant and Piggy books, amusing little tales of friendship which are quite popular in the Schutte home. A pushy, silly, annoying, dramatic Pigeon is one of Willams’s trademark characters, and if you look carefully, he appears in the endpapers of each book in a new, creative way.
Beating the January blues:
With a little creativity, this seemingly slow month can be transformed into a time of discovery and fun.
Interested in creating a garden? Well, start planning now! And while veggies are always a worthwhile undertaking, don’t forget how enchanting a wildflower garden will look by August.
The birds need to eat, too, so set up a feeder and start a bird count. You’ll be astounded by the varieties which visit, and kids will quickly pick up on bird feeding habits, flight patterns, calls, and more. If you’re feeling even more adventurous, try using the Ebird app to track down ducks who may be wending their weary way through your neck of the woods.
If your child is tired of writing book reports, try a new method: Make a lapbook.
Louisa May Alcott’s stories are filled with scenes in which her characters act out plays or vignettes. Take a page from the greatest American author [Yes, I unapologetically believe this. —Sarah] and do a dramatic reenactment of a favorite picture book. A few years ago, Sarah and her siblings did Soap! Soap! Don’t Forget the Soap! (1993) as a show for Father’s Day. Some home videos are best unshared, but the production was quite well-received.
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