March 03, 2006

Book pairings for a "one-two" punch

(Sorry about that first, unfinished version of this post that was accidentally published early. I had a Toy Soldier with a bad cough on my lap while at the computer, and I think his sword hit publish too soon, instead of "save as draft"...)

Children's author and reading dad Chris Barton over at Bartography talked about "the power of the one-two punch" the other day; the idea came to him after reading Book Moot's review of the Empire State Building picture book Sky Boys. In her review, Camille wrote that she thought "this book is more easily shared as a read-aloud than Elizabeth Mann's excellent Empire State Building."

Which prompted Bartography to suggest "other nonfiction pairings that can make the most of any sparks set off by a reader's initial exposure to a topic" -- including Kay Winters' Abe Lincoln: The Boy Who Loved Books and Russell Freedman's Lincoln: A Photobiography -- and wonder, "What one-two nonfiction punches can you recommend?"

This sort of pairing happens a lot around here, especially since we've got a five-year-old who's not reading yet, a six-and-a-half-year-old emerging reader, and an eight-year-old who is on to chapter books, but who all like to stay on the same page, so to speak, whether the topic is just-for-fun or one of our current history, literature, or science subjects.

A few quick pairings -- among the kids' very favorites -- from the past few years would include:

Columbus, a lovely picture book biography written and illustrated by Ingri and Edgar Parin d'Aulaire; and
The World of Columbus and Sons written, and briefly illustrated with beautiful pen and ink sketches, by Genevieve Foster, moves beyond the life and times of the explorer himself to what was happening to the rest of the world at this exciting period in history.

William Tell, retold and illustrated by Margaret Early; I'm a big fan of her picture books, especially because she, like Diane Stanley, uses the style and technique of the historical time in which her story is set. So her illustrations for William Tell recall delicate manuscript illuminations, complete with gold leaf details; and
The Apple and the Arrow, written and illustrated by Mary and Conrad Buff. The 1952 Newbery Honor winner offers a much fuller retelling, and through the eyes of William's son Walter.

And, because I can never leave well enough alone, for a one-two-three-four-five punch:

Kate Waters's wonderful Pilgrim Times series, each photographed by Russ Kendall at Plimoth Plantation -- Tapenum's Day: A Wampanoag Indian Boy in Pilgrim Times; Samuel Eaton's Day: A Day in the Life of a Pilgrim Boy; Sarah Morton's Day: A Day in the Life of a Pilgrim Girl; and Giving Thanks: The 1621 Harvest Feast; along with
The Landing of the Pilgrims, written and illustrated by James Daugherty (a Landmark book).

Finally, here's a three-punch the kids never tire of each winter; all three books are out of print, but you can probably find them at the library or, as we did, at a library discard sale. This past fall, the kids dug them out to make double sure that our mama bear and her cub would be sleeping:

How Animals Sleep (also published as A Time for Sleep) by the magnificent Millicent Selsam, with illustrations by Ezra Jack Keats; a terrific little Scholastic paperback from the fifties. Ours is a 1962 reprint;
Animals in Winter by Henrietta Bancroft and Richard G. Van Gelder, illustrated by Gaetano di Palma, who used to be a scientific illustrator at the American Museum of Natural History in New York. Another Scholastic gem from the 1960's, now reborn as a volume in the "Let's Read and Find Out Science" series; and
Where They Go in Winter by Margaret Waring Buck. Her books are absolute masterpieces of natural history for young scientists and budding natural historians. Includes a complete index of all the animals, along with their Latin names, and list of additional books to read.

So any pairs you'd care to share?

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