Margaret Wise Brown, Goodnight Moon, illustrated by Clement Hurd (1947); Ruth Krauss, A Hole Is to Dig (1952), illustrated by Maurice Sendak.

Starting our second unit on picturebooks today…

BOOKS FOR VERY YOUNG READERS: What should books for very young readers have? What makes them books for very young readers?

(1) IS IT SUBJECT MATTER? Is it their subject matter that makes these suitable for very young (say preschool through 2nd grade) children?

Consider Mother Goose -- Three versions of "Mary, Mary, quite contrary…"

    1. Blanche Fisher Wright, The Real Mother Goose (1915), pp. 80-81
    2. Rosemary Wells, Here Comes Mother Goose (1999), p. 12.
    3. Charles Addams, The Charles Addams Mother Goose (1967).
So… which of these are for the very young? And why? How do you know?

(2) I'm always bringing in books not on the syllabus because, as a teacher, your homework never ends: you should always be reading books for children, trying to keep up. Every year, there 1,000s of picturebooks published. RESOURCES FOR FINDING (and finding out about) BOOKS....

The Bank Street School: One person's answer to the question of what makes books apt. for the very young...

(notes from Leonard Marcus' Awakened by the Moon, chapters two and three)

Cooperative School for Student Teachers, a.k.a. Bank Street School (school was located at 69 Bank Street, in Greenwich Village, New York City). It began in 1916 (44).

How the School Worked: "During the early 1930s Bank Street was the scene of a robust social experiment" (Marcus 44)

The central ideas behind Bank Street:

Margaret Wise Brown and Ruth Krauss both attended the Bank Street School, though whether or not they were there at the same time I do not know. I think Krauss was there later, and I do know that Krauss admired MWB's work (letter from 1951 or 1952).

As we look at their work, think about

Margaret Wise Brown (1910-52) & Clement Hurd (1908-88): Goodnight Moon (1947)

The Following comes from Leonard Marcus' The Making of Goodnight Moon:

biographical note on Margaret Wise Brown (from Marcus's bio)

Ruth Krauss (1901-93) & Maurice Sendak (b. 1928): A Hole Is To Dig (1952) OTHER WORK by RUTH KRAUSS


  • How to figure out the reading age, find new books
  • Game of definitions
  • Newer authors (Boynton, Inkpen, Emberly)
  • Bank Street School
  • here-and-now
  • Classics: Brown, Krauss, Sendak

NEW BULLETIN BOARD QUESITON: In this next unit (which began today), we're looking at books for very young children and, today, in class, we tried to determine what characteristics a book for the preschool-to-second-grade set should have. Let me ask that question here, too: of the books we've looked at this semester, which one (or two) -- in your view -- seems to be appropriate for very young readers? And why? What's your criteria for including it?

A few words of advice: support your answer with examples from the text, and remember to develop your answer fully. Also: please avoid broad generalizations about the preschool-to-second-grade age group. When possible, base your generalizations either on criteria we've discussed in class or on the actual experience of children from this age group. That is, perhaps you have friends and acquaintances in this age group? (A son, daughter, niece, nephew, student, neighbor's child, or simply a young friend…?) What book or books does your young friend like? If possible, ask a young child to help you with your homework -- how does he or she react to the book in question? If not possible, perhaps you can recall your own childhood favorites and use those favorites as reference points.


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