What Makes a Good Board Book?

color zoo

Before launching into any venture, whether it be conducting a meeting, planning a toddler story time, or simply making a trip to the grocery store, I take a cue from my inner two-year-old and ask why. Why am I doing this? What do I hope will happen? Thus, when faced with the task of assessing […]

What Makes a Good Read–Aloud for Middle Graders?

cleary_ramona the pest

Back in the fifties, in my crowded parochial elementary school, the highest form of good luck landed you in Mrs. Sheeran’s fourth-grade class. The fact that Mrs. Sheeran wasn’t a nun marked her instantly as different. But more significant than her street clothes and married name were two admirable practices. First, every day at 10:30 […]

What Makes a Good Pop-up Book?

couper_universe

Those of us who work with kids, be it with reading, swimming, or Wii-ing, know one important rule of thumb: first we have to get their attention. In the book world, in addition to the word underwear or the newest installment in a hot new series, movable books — with tabs to pull, wheels to […]

What Makes a Good Banned Book?

In The Night Kitchen

Max imagined himself into the land of the wild things, and the censors said NO. Mickey fell out of his clothes in full-frontal view, and the censors said NO. When Judy Blume gave Margaret her period, gave Tony Miglione wet dreams, and answered Deenie’s questions about masturbation, the censors said “too much information,” and they […]

What Makes a Good Science Book?

branley_gravity is a mystery

Google “best books for children,” and you’ll get lists of (mostly) fiction books characterized by imaginative writing and excellent pictures — great stories with captivating illustrations. Why should the elements of a good science book be any different? As far as engaging stories go, science writers have it made. Who could invent a Tyrannosaurus rex, […]

Some Pigs! What Makes a Good Three Little Pigs?

scieszka_true story of the three little pigs

Once upon a time . . . there was an old sow with three little pigs, and as she had not enough to keep them, she sent them out to seek their fortune. The first that went off met a man with a bundle of straw, and said to him: “Please man, give me that […]

Safe Passages: What Makes a Good Early-Expert-Reader Book?

lattimore_little pear

“Mommy, what does mere mean?” a friend’s four-year-old asked, puzzled by a sentence — “Mere minutes later” — in the Superman comic he was looking at. He didn’t recognize mere as a number, and he couldn’t figure it out by himself. But his question revealed that this preschooler had learned to read. Most children learn […]

Independence Day: What Makes a Good First-Day-of-School Book?

hole_garmann's summer

According to the old adage, death and taxes are the two things in life we can’t avoid. Children know about a third: school. In the United States, youngsters of a certain age must attend school, receiving state-mandated instruction at home or in public, private, boarding, or parochial institutions. School is a child’s introduction to inevitability, […]

Let’s Start at the Very Beginning: What Makes a Good Alphabet Book?

johnson_alphabet city

Trying to figure out what makes a good alphabet book is like determining what makes a good meal for a child. It’s a matter of taste as well as developmental maturity. A baby might be partial to mashed peas, a toddler to plain pasta, and a six-year-old may prefer the textural complexity of a peanut […]

How to Choose a Goose: What Makes a Good Mother Goose?

4.2.7

It is a truth universally acknowledged that every English-speaking child is the better for an early friendship with “Mother Goose” — early meaning from birth, because nothing boosts language development better than those catchy rhymes and rhythms. Scholars and educators alike praise the virtues and resonances of these traditional rhymes. They are essentials of both […]