I just love children’s literature. These favorite books are simple enough for children to enjoy and understand, yet they can have rich themes and lessons that are great reminders for readers of all ages. While it is delightful to discover a new book to use in my classroom, the following are some that I come back to year after year because they are simply works of art in their own genre.
Here are 5 of my current favorite books:
1. From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler by E.L.Konigsburg. In this chapter book, the main character Claudia is bored with the monotony of her life, so she runs away to the Metropolitan Museum of Art with her younger brother. At least one group of my students reads this in a reciprocal teaching group each year. As they read, it is fun to use the MET’s website to view the sections of the museum that are mentioned throughout the story. While on their adventure, the runaways stumble upon a mystery related to Michaelangelo. As an extension, my students take a virtual field trip to the Sistine Chapel and attempt to paint like Michaelangelo. Here’s a great additional article to read if you try this with students.
2. The Cricket in Times Square by George Selden. Another chapter book geared towards upper elementary, this is the story of a cricket from Connecticut who ends up in a New York City subway station. Music is a unifying theme in this tale of friendship. The characters discover that Chester the cricket has a perfect memory for music, and he chirps opera and classical music to help save the day. As an interesting extension, students can learn about the connection to temperature and cricket chirps, and they can listen to samples of the music mentioned in the text.
3. The Noisy Paint Box: The Colors and Sounds of Kandinsky’s Abstract Art, by Barb Rosenstock. This is a newer book that won the Caldecott honor in 2014. An introduction to Kandinsky’s art, this book provides an accessible way to connect younger students with the idea of synesthesia. For older students exploring this topic, you can find a fantastic EducationCloset lesson plan for grades 6-8 here. There are already a few read-aloud versions of this favorite books on YouTube.
4. The Composer is Dead by Lemony Snicket. Are you ready for puns with a little dramatic mystery thrown in? This book has plenty of both, and it comes with a soundtrack to accompany the story. I shared it with my third-graders, and they enjoyed the story, but many of the musical puns and jokes were lost on them. I think it would be most appreciated by students who have a musical background. With the narration and accompanying music, it is just yearning to be made into an Arts-integrated performance. See behind the scenes footage of its creation here. Listen to my favorite books and music in its entirety here, although just listening without the actual book does not do it justice.
5. The Most Magnificient Thing by Ashley Spires. This book is perfect for anyone involved in the Maker Movement, but it applies to any classroom with a growth mindset. A girl sets out to create a magnificent idea she imagines, and it doesn’t turn out as planned. When she gets frustrated and steps back from her work, she finds that what she had already done had merit, and it gave her just enough of a breather to overcome her obstacles. It is a simple book with a powerful message, and every student who reads it can identify with it in his or her own way. If you’re interested in an activity related to the book, here’s a sample of student work that shows how a class cut it apart to tell the story through stop-motion animation.