Books of Few Words
For those of you curious about what librarians at Mackin do all day, wonder no more! In this post I’ll give you a behind the scenes look and share a few books related to a recent project.
I often joke that I read children’s books for a living, but that isn’t really any truer about a librarian working at a book company than it is about a librarian working in a school or library proper. Sure, our desks are piled high with books pretty much all the time (not to mention the carts full of books that live in our cubicles), but the bulk of our work in the Collection Management department is working with other librarians. Our job is to walk media specialists through our collection analysis program and help them update their collections based on the results of the analysis. In between helping librarians select books, we work hard to stay up to date on the newest in children’s and YA lit, so we can recommend the best books to you.
Recently I was working with a librarian who had a very specific request that took a bit more research than usual. She was looking for picture books with minimal text—preferably just one or two words per page. It took some digging since there isn’t a search term for “minimal text” or “one word per page” like there is for “stories without words”, but I managed to come up with a surprisingly sizeable list of titles for her, most of which had just two or three words per page. I started my list by sorting through alphabet books looking for the simplest among them, like A Gardener’s Alphabet by Mary Azarian. I turned to concept books next, like Laura Vaccaro Seeger’s recent Green. After that I added some “classics of few words” that I could recall, like Donald Crews’ Parade. Then I dug into the newest picture books to see what might work for this librarian.
A few examples of newly published picture books I found for her:
Surprise by Mies van Hout begins with expectation and ends with letting go. Parents, in particular, will appreciate the journey that follows bird parents and their babies as they grow. Each spread features only one word along with van Hout’s childlike chalk drawings. Young word lovers will appreciate the creative vocabulary lesson that includes words like “cherishing” and marveling” while adult readers will likely welcome the opportunity to discuss both the words themselves and the sweet story they tell. (9781935954347. April 2014. Grades PS-1)
As in Surprise, Nest by Jorey Hurley also features bird babies. This time the birds are depicted realistically as we follow a year in the life of a family of robins. One word per page accompanies the striking illustrations to create a dramatic view of the bird family throughout the year. This book could be used to introduce the life cycle of a robin, to look at birds through the seasons, or to talk about families. Perhaps this lovely picture book will inspire young readers to become birdwatchers. (9781442489714. Feb 2014. Grades PS-2)
Big Bug by Henry Cole uses a few more words (2-4 per page) to share a lesson on perspective and comparison. We start by zooming in on a “big bug,” but when the next spread zooms out, the bug looks small compared to the leaf. We zoom further out with each turn of the page until we get to the sky, and we start zooming in on a farm scene from the “big barn” to the “small window” of the farm house. This is picture book is sure to fascinate kids in a storytime or a classroom lesson on relative size. (9781442498976. April 2014. Grades PS-1)
You can find more “books of few words” featured in previous Books in Bloom posts:
Happy by Mies van Hout – Similar to Surprise, this is a one word per spread picture book.
Blue Sky by Audrey Wood – Two words to describe the sky on each page.
Professor Whiskerton Presents Steampunk ABC by Lisa Falkenstern – Simple sentences with four words maximum per spread in this alphabet book.
Bad Bye, Good Bye by Deborah Underwood – Only 2-4 words per page in this book.
Annoying ABC by Barbara Bottner – This book has 2-4 words per page.
And, of course, there are a few words (or sounds) in some of the picture books featured in Tracey’s post from last fall, Use Your Words…Or Not.