The one that made me think of this post was the one I was reading this week. It's kind of a funny little book that apparently didn't get much press when it was published a few years ago. I bought it for a lesson on Groundhog's Day (which I have very mixed feelings about) and it works perfectly. It's called "Brownie Groundhog and the February Fox" by Susan Blackby. It's about a groundhog who comes out and sees her shadow and is dismayed to find that there were will be six more weeks of winter. A skinny little fox finds her and tries to eat her but Brownie talks him out of it. Because I live (and work) in South Florida, we have to have an extended conversation about snow, hibernating animals, signs of spring, frozen ponds, ice skating, robins, and more snow, but the dialogue in this book is hilarious. There are so many ways to read it and interpret it that it's easy to read over and over again with out getting bored (at least for me it is). It's also a great excuse to have cocoa and cinnamon toast (which also make an appearance in the book).
As an added bonus, there is a sequel that just came out called Brownie Groundhog and The Wintry Surprise.
Another one that I really loved, which also apparently didn't get a lot of press when it came out is called One Eye, Two Eyes, Three eyes by Eric Kimmel. It's a folk tale that has a ton of text to text references. It's pretty creepy (a witch with three eyes is one of the main characters) but first and second graders seem completely riveted by it. For us, it also requires a bit of a lesson on what stinging nettles are (we don't have them in south Florida) and what carding wool or cotton or even nettles will look like. Here's a little youtube video you can show your students or your kids!
Here's what the book looks like.
This brings me to another thing I love about this book, the art work. Eric Kimmel is a great writer but he gets illustrators to do the pictures, so all of his books appear very different. This one has art work that reflects the native culture of the story-the Carpathian Mountains (think Hungary, Romania, the Czech Republic... that area). All of this adds up to a great story.
The last one is one I must have read a million times to my niece one summer when she was about 3 or maybe 4. Although at some point, I was tempted to put it away (at least for a day), when my niece would remind me that I didn't have to be scared at the scary part, I remembered yet again, why this book was so great. Which is why when I mentioned it one of my teachers the other day and she said she'd never read it, I almost fell over (since I can pretty much tell you the book verbatim). It's Abiyoyo by Pete Seeger. It's a story and a folktale in one (and if you can't carry a tune, it's ok, the song is a lullaby and there isn't much of a tune to it anyway). It's about an annoying boy and his annoying father who are ostracized from their village. One day a giant called Abiyoyo comes to town and they come up with a plan to save the town and get rid of the giant. It's kind of scary and kind of funny and there's a song!
Here's Pete Seeger reading it on Reading Rainbow.
He does a great job of reading it but if you can ever find a recording of James Earl Jones reading Abiyoyo, it's complete magic. And maybe you could tell me where you found it because I've been searching high and low for it since I lost mine.