What's the first picture book that comes to your mind? What was it that made it memorable? Was it the actual book, or the person you were reading it with? Was it the illustrations?
Why do some children's books draw us in right away, while others we struggle to get through?
Well, a key ingredient to a truly unforgettable children's book, for me, is magic. It wasn't just a spider weaving words into a web that made Charlotte's Web a delight to read. It was the web of carefully selected words and illustrations that the author wove, which made that book unforgettable.
The most extraordinary writers weave intricate webs with beautiful simplicity. They make you think, but yet they don't "teach." They help you see, but they don't dangle the object right in front of you.
The more I think about it, the more great writers are like our most memorable teachers. They help us to learn about ourselves and the world around us without making it seem like work.
If I were teaching in the public schools right now, I would weave Sophie's Masterpiece: A Spider's Tale into the curriculum, no matter what grade I was teaching. It's that good. And it's a perfect complement to Charlotte's Web. As a matter of fact, if Charlotte had a daughter, it would surely be Sophie!
Sophie lives a lonely life. Everyone is scared of her, even though she doesn't look too scary! But Sophie is an artist, and her weaving keeps her happy.
One day, a woman finds her; and instead of being appalled, she smiles. The woman begins to knit for the baby she's expecting, but runs out of yarn before her projects are complete.
Sophie to the rescue! With all of her effort and energy, a very old Sophie manages to create something so beautiful that it truly can be called a masterpiece.
A story of love, understanding, individuality, generosity, and artistry, Sophie's Masterpiece is not a picture book to be missed.
A couple of great nonfiction connections for those children who won't get scared of spider photographs are:
- How Do Spiders Make Webs? by Melissa Stewart
Of course, you could also link this book with a knitting or nature activity, or read children's books about silk (I've requested some from the library). Younger readers may also enjoy Eric Carle's popular book, The Very Busy Spider and/or My Own Very Busy Spider Coloring Book.
Do you know of any other great spider-related books? Please do share!
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