Tuesday, August 7, 2012

LIBR 271A Top Ten

These are my selections for the Top Ten Picturebooks for Older Readers (5th-12th grades) from my readings this term.

In no particular order:

The Arrival
Absolutely the most stunning example of a picturebook I have read. Sophisticated, moving, and wonderfully detailed illustrations. The fact that the story's told without words makes its clarity even more striking.

An adolescent's journey relayed in a format that's part-diary, part-reality television. Modern and fast-paced, with plenty of heart.

Heart and Soul
Rich, gorgeous illustrations from an award-winning artist and a powerful perspective on the story of a people over two and a half centuries. This outstanding picturebook can introduce difficult conversations about slavery, racism, and civil rights to a 5th- or 6th-grade class.

Cross-Sections: Castle
A wealth of historical information captured in intricate detail, with a dash of fun thrown in to keep students interested.

Hereville: How Mirka Got Her Sword
I want to cheer for this young protagonist, who is smart and full of pluck, but has faults like any eleven-year-old. Parents and teachers looking for strong girls in their children's literature will love this PG-rated graphic novel.

Through My Eyes

Sometimes the most meaningful history is that related in the first person by the participants, with the perspective of age and experience now available to them. Ruby Bridges explains what happened in her first-grade year as the only black student in her school and how it affected her. Her perceptions show us that children don't always see the larger impact of their lives until much later.

As a future librarian, of course I feel strongly about the subject of banned books. Teens exploring their independence and fighting restrictions imposed by adult society will naturally want to discuss the topic of censorship as it relates to the themes of the story and beyond. This graphic novel had several sympathetic characters and enough tie-ins to real-life situations that I could easily see it happening in a small town today. 

Mirror, Mirror 
Middle-schoolers will gain a better understanding of the depths of language by reading these clever paired poems. They may even enjoy crafting a few of their own. Words mean things. It's important for young writers to learn that, and to experiment with the shades of meaning they can reveal or conceal by changing perspective.

The Wolves in the Walls

The kooky collage artwork pairs well with the eerie story, like graham crackers and chocolate with campfire marshmallows. It's a good one to bring out around Halloween for a touch of spookiness and dark humor.

The 9/11 Report
The clear, compressed drawings and narration of this graphic adaptation make the dense text of the official government document accessible to high school students -- especially considering many of today's older students were quite small at the time of the attack. Excellent source for discussion of the historical incident, the way it was handled by emergency services and media, and government response to terrorism.


  1. Thank you! I have been really enjoying your book reviews.

    I love everything I've read from Shaun Tan, including the one you reviewed. "The Red Tree" is another one of his books that I would highly recommend; it is a beautiful and moving depiction of what it feels like to be depressed, overwhelmed, and unsure of who you are, which is a topic that is too rarely addressed with children. I'm not sure what age group it is intended for, but I have given that book as a gift to more than one adult. :)

    1. Thanks for the recommendation -- I'll look it up after the rush of the semester ends. Still have to write my lesson plans!


Please be civil to other commenters.