In an effort to utilize my librarian background, I am embarking on a series of book reviews, to be published every Friday. These reviews will cover computer programming books aimed at children, as well as reality-based children’s books.
Although there are a number of books where the characters face a problem, many of these books depict talking animals, or worse, are so filled with conflict that the resolution comes at the end of the book. Therefore, much of the story is about the conflict, not the resolution (see the book, NurtureShock for a good explanation as to why this matters). In addition, since many of these “moral lessons” are lost on children younger than age eight, as parents we need to talk to them about the story (not every book, or every story, but occasionally parents can point out the lesson in the story).
The following books are great for an in-class (or at-home) discussion with an elementary audience. I wouldn’t necessarily read these books to a child younger than five, unless you have the time to discuss how the characters might be feeling.
Ages 6 and up
Lovell, Patty. Stand Tall Molly Lou Melon. Illustrated by David Catrow. Scholastic, Inc. : New York, 2001.
This story features Molly Lou Melon, an exceptionally short girl with buck teeth and a “bullfrog” voice. But, she doesn’t mind her flaws. After all, her grandmother told her to love herself and everyone else will love her too. When she moves to a new school, she has to put her self-esteem to the test as she works on winning over the school bully. Best of all – she does it just by being herself (i.e. showing how she can stack pennies on her buck teeth, etc.) Parent’s note: there is some example name calling, such as shrimpo and bucky-tooth beaver, hence the advanced age range for this book.
Ages 5 and up
Beaumont, Karen. I Like Myself! Illustrated by David Catrow. Harcourt: Orlando, 2004.
David Catrow is the same illustrator for the book, Stand Tall Molly Lou Melon, and so this book has a similar look and feel. However, rather than tell a story, the author’s rhyming text supports a child’s self-esteem. For example, her opening words are “I’m glad I’m me” and the readers continue to watch as the main character, a little girl, proclaims a love of herself – even if she has tusks that come out of her nose! This is a cute story that emphasizes the idea that no one should make you feel bad about about yourself. Appropriate for elementary-aged audiences.
Ages 6 and up
London, Jonathan. Where the Big Fish Are. Illustrated by Adam Gustavson. Candlewich Press: Cambridge, Massachusetts, 2001.
Two boys are spending the summer (free from school) by their local lake. Each morning they cast their fishing polls, but they catch no fish. Finally, they decide to build a raft so they can go into the middle of the lake – where the big fish are. They work and work and eventually make a raft. Unfortunately, a huge storm comes through and wrecks the little raft. One of the boys doesn’t want to rebuild since it would be too much work, but the other boy helps him to be resilient and try again. A good story for showcasing “grit” and helping to persevere despite setbacks.