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  Harvesting Education: Picture Books
Combine Entertainment and Learning
  by Jeanne Duffey for Parent + Family
In This Review

The Stranger

The Butter Battle Book

Thank You, Sarah

The Autumn Equinox

Apples, Apples, Apples

The Pumpkin Book

Leaves! Leaves! Leaves!

More Reviews

Picture books—those lovely, slim volumes full of beautiful illustrations and graphics and just a tiny bit of text—are usually labeled for preschoolers and young elementary students. So, if you, like I do, still love picture books, you may harbor a few guilty feelings about your passion.

No, no, no! says Jessie Alexander-East, a children’s librarian at the Library Center. “You can read picture books all your life and still find new meanings in them when you read them as adults.” As examples, she cites “The Stranger” by Chris Van Allsburg and “The Butter Battle Book” by Dr. Seuss.

What’s different about picture books, says Alexander-East, is that the illustrations help tell the story. The brief text, supplemented by the rich textures of the drawings or photos, only adds to the experience of reading picture books.

Another misconception about picture books is they are all fiction. Not so. There are many nonfiction picture books that explain scientific facts or historical events.

An example of the latter is “Thank You, Sarah” by Laurie Halse Anderson and illustrated by Matt Faulkner. It’s subtitled “The Woman Who Saved Thanksgiving” and tells the story of Sarah Hale, who not only persuaded President Lincoln in 1863 to designate Thanksgiving a national holiday, but also “fought for playgrounds for kids, schools for girls. . .She argued against spanking, pie for breakfast, dull stories, corsets and bloomers and bustles and very serious things like slavery.”

Faulkner’s illustrations add to the text and transform what-could-have-been a dry biography of a little-known 19th century activist into an inspiring journey into what one individual can become.

The Autumn Equinox” by Ellen Jackson has more text than a typical picture book, but the gorgeous vibrant illustrations by Jan Davey Ellis are a feast for the eyes and perfect for a book about harvest celebrations and customs all over the world.

Apples, Apples, Apples” combines a story about a bunny family with a bushel of facts. Farmer Miller, another bunny, explains how apples are grown, different varieties and other apple information. The unique illustrations by the author, Nancy Elizabeth Wallace, are three-dimensional paper cuttings glued into place.

The Pumpkin Book” by Gail Gibbons gives the same treatment—lots of interesting facts interlaced with wonderful drawings of kids—to this common member of the squash family.

Leaves! Leaves! Leaves!” another Nancy Elizabeth Wallace selection, complete with the same fascinating cut-out illustrations, follows Buddy Bear and his mother on leaf walks. They learn all kinds of things about leaves and how they change through the seasons; there’s an informative center spread showing how leaves become a food factory to a tree.

All these picture books foster learning at its best and least painful for both you and your child.


-Jeanne Duffey is Community Relations Director for the Springfield-Greene County Library District.
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