Take a five year-old’s favorite question, add Eric Carle’s joyous spirit and thirteen of the most accomplished illustrators working in children’s literature today and you have What’s Your Favorite Animal? (Henry Holt, 2014). This book is a glorious celebration of animals and art. Each artist responded to this important question with a short piece of writing and an illustration. The writing ranges from heartfelt recollections of childhood pets to whimsical imaginary pets. Nick Bruel’s Bad Kitty even gets to add her two cents.
The writing that accompanies each illustration is rich with description and rationale. Peter Sís describes “…many families coming with their carps to the river and blue fish swimming toward the ocean. This gave us all hope!” Chris Raschka’s keen observation of the lowly snail gives readers a new appreciation of an animal who’s often overlooked: “But all her life she works her craft, adding to it day by day, until, when she dies, she leaves us something of great beauty.”
These words could describe the work of these artists, who have given the world so much beauty through their books. It seems fitting, then, that proceeds from What’s Your Favorite Animal? are being donated to The Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art. The Carle, dedicated to inspiring “a love of art and reading through picture books,” is one of my favorite museums. (Read more about my last visit here.)
What’s Your Favorite Animal? is a perfect mentor text for young writers making their first attempt at opinion writing. The CCSS calls for both Kindergarten and first grade writers to “write opinion pieces.” What better topic than animals, something every child has an opinion about?
I also found this book on my most recent trip to the bookstore:
Lisa Nola, creator of this book/journal explains in a note that the book “is designed to help you create your autobiography.” But I was drawn to Listography for a different reason. It’s ideal for using with kids when they complain, “But I don’t know what to write about.” WARNING! Don’t just hand this book to students; adults are definitely the target audience. Rather, choose an appropriate page and write the topic on the board. Like What’s Your Favorite Animal?, everyone has favorite toys, games, and songs.
This book appealed to me on another level, though. I don’t usually need lists like this for ideas of what to write about. Rather, I can see using this book and these list ideas to get to know my own characters better. I have seen many writing exercises that do just this. But the idea of having this whole volume filled with these lists really appeals to me. I’m hoping they’ll help me find, to use Ray Bradbury’s perfect metaphor, what’s “hidden under the trapdoor on the top of my skull.” Or, in this case, my character’s skull.