Its that time of year again, where children are being ushered back to school. Some little ones are just starting school. A great way to bring the new school year ,is with some great children’s literature. Ezra Jack Keats writes prolific, meaningful, and enjoyable children’s books. His illustrations are brilliant and rich, and they will draw your young readers in. Here is an annotated bibliography of some of the wonderful books that he has written:
Keats, E.J. (1962). The Snowy Day. New York: Viking.
This book is about a little boy named Peter and his experience with snow. The story provides detailed illustrations of Peters activities in the snow as well as descriptive words to identify the sounds made as he walked in the snow (ex. Crunch, crunch, crunch). This is an excellent book for students in pre-kindergarten through first or second grade. The story can be used to introduce seasons and then a detailed focus can follow on snow. The story can also provide an opportunity for children to share their personal experiences in regards winter sports and activities. For the first and second grade students you can incorporate a science lesson to explore what happens to snow in the heat. This would be a real life experience that would assist the children in understanding what happened to the handful of snow that Peter packed into his pocket before he went inside his house.
Keats, E.J. (1964). Whistle for Willie. New York: Puffin Books.
This story is about a boy named peter and his desire to whistle. The story focuses on Peter and how hard he tries to whistle so his dog named, Willie, will respond when he calls him. No matter how hard Peter tries, even after putting on his fathers hat so he feels “more grown up”, he still can not whistle. I found Peters desire to learn to whistle encouraging and believe it will be a good lesson for young children in Kindergarten or first grade to read. This story serves as inspiration for children and teaches them that if they continue to practice and perfect their action/behaviors, eventually it will improve. The events in the story will encourage the children to work hard as it shows how Peters self-determination paid off and it portrays that one can accomplish almost anything so long as they set their mind to it!
Keats, E.J. (1965). John Henry. New York: Dragonfly Books.
This is a great book for children in the early grades (up to the third grade) and is a means to teach about an American Legend, John Henry. This book can be read during black history month or at any given time to expose children to famous African Americans. The story is told of a man with a great drive within and how he worked so hard and was notorious for his strength. John Henry wanted to prove that he and his men could do the work of, and more efficiently, than that of a newly introduced steam drill. It was alleged that the machine could drill holes faster than the work of six men and John Henry challenged that statement. John Henry worked with his men and his determination was so strong, that he out worked his men and worked along swinging two sledge hammers. Ultimately, John Henry surpassed the steam drill which had malfunctioned and obviously was no match for his strength. Mr. Henry’s drive to beat the steam drill caused such a strain on his heart that once he made it through the tunnel, he took his last step and unfortunately died with his hammer in hand.
Keats, E.J. (1967). Peters Chair. New York: Puffin Books.
This is a wonderful story to share with children who have or are expecting younger siblings. The author highlights how an older sibling may feel when all of their baby toys and possessions are being removed from them and passed to the younger child. In the story the main character, Peter, recently had a baby sister and his parents painted his old cradle, his high chair, and his crib pink for his little sister. The only thing that had yet to be painted was Peters Chair. In an attempt to keep his chair to himself, Peter took his chair, his toy alligator, his baby pictures and a bag with cookies and dog biscuits so he and his dog, Willie could run away (to the front of the house). Peter was happy with his decision to leave and where he decided to relocate. Peter began to arrange his belongings accordingly on the sidewalk in his new domain. Peter wanted to relax and have a seat in his chair when he realized that he was too big and would no longer fit in the chair. Once Peter realized this on his own, he then began to understand why his baby things were being given to his sister as he outgrew them. This story beautifully portrays a young child’s self-realization that it is better to share your things then to be selfish and have them go to waste (especially when they can be put to good use.)
Keats, E.J. (1969). Goggles!. New York: Puffin Books.
Peter and Archie find a pair of motorcycle goggles one day while playing in their hideout. When some older boys see the goggles, they want them too. Peter, Willie, and Archie are in trouble, they have to find a way to escape the boys. With some help for Willie, Peter tricks the older boys and they are able to run home with their goggles. This is a book about bullies, courage, and using your wits. Children will enjoy reading about the characters using their smarts to fool the older boys. This book is suitable for kindergarten to 3rd grade.
Keats, E.J. (1975). Louie. New York: Puffin Books.
Louie is a quiet and shy boy who usually keeps to himself. When he goes to a puppet show, he comes out of his shell and speaks to the puppet Gussie during the show. Being sad over not having the puppet, Louie dreams about Gussie when he gets home, but he was in for a surprise when he woke up. This a touching story of empathy and kindness, which both teachers and children will enjoy for its portrayal of these tender traits. Filled with brilliant illustrations, this book will be treasured by children of all ages.
The first day of school for all NYC public school students is September 8, 2011.