What makes a good children’s book? I’d suppose that’s a tough question to answer, otherwise Microsoft would have already written Newbery Notebook 1.0 and Caldecott Creator for Windows. A good children’s book is far from formulaic.
It seems, however, that Little, Brown Books
has done a pretty good job of nailing some of the more prominently recurring traits of good children’s books (both novels and picture books). See the whole list
at the Upstart Crow Literary blog
(a cool place to peek behind the curtain of the writing and publishing biz).
What use is this list to the average classroom teacher?
- It may help you understand why some books win with children while others fail. The list explains, for example, why a common literary motif of many children’s novels (Harry Potter, Lord of the Flies, Narnia, Holes) is the removal of the protagonist (and other main characters) from adult supervision and control.
- The individual attributes may help you create some connections between otherwise unrelated texts. One successful exercise with every novel, for example, is looking at how a character grows or changes over time. I’ve used this approach with Number the Stars, Because of Winn Dixie, Crash, Flipped, and Island of the Blue Dolphins to name just a few. Check out this sample recording sheet.
- The list can be used a fairly accurate indicator of a book’s overall value when teachers must choose just two or three titles for study. Many teachers, for example, complain that their boys just don’t “get into” books which feature strong female protagonists. A book like Poppy, however, which features a female animal protagonist, is somehow more readily embraced.
- Teachers can use the list as a reference for writing minilessons. If these are the traits that make good children’s books work, and if these are the attributes with which children have the most first-hand experience, then perhaps many of them could inform student writing as well.
How else do you see putting this list to work for you? Email me or leave a comment below!
(This same post also appears at my Teach with Picture Books site).
By sending you over to Literacy is Priceless, I’m hooking you up with two hot resources. First of all, that blog itself. Lots of web and tech resources for bringing literacy into the 21st Century.
Second is the topic of that post, which is the Shmoopwebsite. Shmoop is a fabulous collection of resources in the areas of literature, history, and poetry. I love free stuff! Everyone knows that about me. But at this site I especially appreciate the section of each resource called “Why Should I Care?” Next to free stuff, I love relevance! “Why should we care about this stuff?” is the grunted (yet valid) motto of every middle and high school student, and these well-written and funny selections answer that question (check out the Why Should I Care? for 1984).
Plan to spend some time there.
You’re reading this post at the old How to Teach a Novel site. Continue reading the most recent post at the new site.
Welcome to my new blog! Some of you may have arrived here from my Teach with Picture Books blog, others may have arrived here from Teaching that Sticks, and still others may have found this blog through my many Squidoo sites such as Interactive Reading Sites, Interactive Math Sites, and, of course, How to Teach a Novel (the static version).
So why another blog?
Well, it seems that when you begin sharing advice about how to teach a novel, you suddenly become a lightning rod for suggestions, sites, and resources on that topic. So why keep all this good stuff to myself?
If you’re just starting out on this road to teaching novels successfully, I’d recommend that you first jump over to my How to Teach a Novel lens at Squidoo.com. There you’ll find an abbreviated version of the workshop I’ve presented numerous times. It’s a great jumping off point, with lots of sites to explore.
Have a suggestion for a site, teaching resource, or publication on the use of novels? Email me! I’d also be happy to link to your related site.
You’re reading this post at the old How to Teach a Novel site. Continue reading this post or the most recent post at the new site.
Tara Seale has compiled a nice list of the Top Ten YouTube Videos for the Classroom over at her Enhanced English Teacher blog. If you’re a middle or high school English teacher, you’ll find some great resources and insights there.
For example, those of you who have had the immense pleasure of attending my Teaching that Sticks workshop or my How to Teach a Novel workshop have heard me mention Joseph Campbell’s “Hero Myth.” The clip below features a discussion of the Hero Myth as it appears in The Matrix. Christopher Vogler, author of The Writers Journey: Mythic Structure for Writersand Using Myth to Power Your Story takes over where Joseph Campbell left off. This snippet of video serves to set up this topic up for classroom discussion.
Thanks for the list, Tara! Visit her site and give her some suggestions for building it to a Top Twenty!
(Missed my How to Teach a Novel workshop? Visit my How to Teach a Novellens over at Squidoo.com for an abbreviated run-down).