I probably should disable my Amazon button. It makes it much too easy to purchase picture books at the click of my computer. Let's face it, publishers are quickly able to get picture books out into the market...and authors and illustrators are certainly making it hard to resist. The number of amazing picture books seems to grow each month. In all of these new books, it is easy to forget picture books that have been written that once sang to our hearts.
This week, I was invited to share my book stack for our local NCTE Build Your Book Stack event. It seemed the expectations would be high with a group of book enthusiasts. What could I share they'd love? What was new? What could I share that they hadn't seen? As I worked to find books for our selected theme, I couldn't help but think about past picture books that would be great to share. Knowing that newer titles would be well received, I completed my collection. However, those other titles kept nagging at me. So why not share them with you?
Here are the books I shared in my book stack paired with an older picture book with equal power for your classroom library.
Picture Book Pairs: Unsung Heroes
1. Unsung heroes bring people together to do something bigger than any one person.
Well, this one made me laugh. Maybe Something Beautiful is new to me, but it has been out in the world since 2016 which makes Strictly No Elephants only a little older. I'm staying with it though because I love the way these two books pair to demonstrate we are always better together. In both books, the main character teams with a friends to create something better for their community. We're better together.
2. Unsung heroes bring have a giving heart.
Now I have the copyright year difference I had hoped for in these pairings. The first time I read Thank You, Omu!, it reminded me of a picture book I read to my children and my classes years ago. Both books have a repetitive structure that make them a delight to read. In both books, the main character makes some soup and is soon sharing with everyone. The rhythmic language in both books make them perfect for reading aloud. They both demonstrate the power of a giving heart.
3. Unsung heroes are there for others.
Let's face it, sometimes we need someone to just listen and help us pick up the pieces. In both of these picture books the main character has a friend that just sits beside them and listens. Both demonstrate the power of just being there for other people.
4. Unsung heroes understand us, help us hope, and give us a path forward.
(2002, 2013) by Shirin Yim Bridges and illustrated by Sophie Blackall
I just love both of these titles for the way I can go back into them again and again to discover something new. In both stories, the character is a young girl with a wish to make their worlds better. In Carmela Full of Wishes, Carmela lives in a migrant worker community. She has many wishes for a better world for her family including having her father beside them. I love to read Ruby's Wish to groups of students. As girls/women in America, we sometimes take for granted our ability to get an education. Life is still very different for many women around the world. In both of these books, there is a secondary character who understands the main character's wish and helps to find a way forward.
5. Unsung heroes will stand up for others.
(2001, 2014) by Deborah Wiles. Illustrated by Jerome Lagarrigue.
Both of these books demonstrate the power of having a friend to walk beside you. I wrestle a bit with Freedom Summer now that I am more attentive to the white savior narrative. Yet, I also think the fact that a child will take a risk for a friend when a system is unfair should speak to each of us. We can't stay silent. As a friend once reminded me, silence is an option only for those with privilege.
6. Unsung heroes do hard things because it matters.
I keep going back and forth on this pair. To compare the struggles of a refugee to the first day of school seems a bit unfair. Let's be honest, these two struggles are nowhere near the same. However, in both books the main character is dealing with a difficult situation and pushes through to get to the next place. In both books, there is a friend, who by helping themselves, they also make a difference for the friend. Both books illustrate the ways we work through really difficult times. Sometimes we just have to do hard things.
Your favorite pairings? I'd love to hear about other books you think might go with these I've shared --- or maybe you have some other old/new pairings that come to mind. Please share them in the comments. Wait, I'm going to go get my library card before I spend all my money buying books!