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Annotated Booklist of Children’s Literature Essay

Mr. and Mrs. Mallard fly north to look for a place to live. Their first choice is the Public Garden in Boston, but when Mrs. Mallard is almost run over by a bike she decides that it is not a good place to bring up a family. They finally decide on a spot on the Charles River and meet a Policeman called Michael who feeds them.

Mrs. Mallard lays eight eggs. Mr. Mallard then decides to explore the rest of the river and agreed to meet the whole family the following week in the Public Garden. When the ducklings are born Mrs. Mallard teaches them to swim and dive and to follow in a straight line so she can take them to meet their father in the Public Garden.

As they wade ashore and start to cross the road, the cars begin to honk their horns. The ducklings respond to this by quacking at them. Michael sees what is happening and stops the traffic so the ducklings can cross the road. Once they are across, he contacts other police officers to help him hold traffic to make way for the ducklings so that Mrs. Mallard and her family are able to cross the street safely into the Public Garden. Mrs. Mallard and the ducklings then swim across the pond across to the little island where they found Mr. Mallard waiting for them. The ducklings like their new island so much that they decide to live there.

Personal Response:

• Did this book resonate with you? If so, in what ways? If not, why not? I enjoyed reading this book as an adult, remembering it from childhood. Reading it as an adult, I realize the some of the lessons I learned as a child such as following instructions from my mother for example.

• Would you recommend this book? If so, to whom and why? If not, why not? I would highly recommend this book to preschool and early education teachers who are looking for an entertaining story that can be used to teach the children about such things as following instructions. For older children a big thing that can be learned is how sometimes things are not as they initially appear, and the Mallard family discovered through the story.

• Would you like to read other books by this author? Why or why not? Yes. The author/illustrator did a wonderful job of keeping the story moving, and allowing the pictures to accent and helps move the story along, while continuing to holding the interest of the reader.

• How does this book demonstrate characteristics of quality literature? This book shows a good balance between the illustrations and the writing, allowing each to accent the other as the story moves. The story is one that younger children can relate to, and using ducks as the primary characters, it creates an interest in the readers or listeners to want to find out more.

• Additional notes/comments/criticisms:
Although this story is almost 70 years old, some of the issues it addresses are valid and current even in modern times. In this reviewers opinion the greatest asset of the story is the strength of its primary female character in Mrs. Mallard, showing her to be a woman who is not afraid to make decisions and take charge, something not often seen in 1941.

Title:A Wrinkle in Time

Author: Madeleine L’Engle
Illustrator:Ellen Raskin (1960s editions), Leo and Diane Dillon (current hardcover) Publisher: Farrar, Straus & Giroux
Date of Publication: 1962
Genre:Fantasy

Short Synopsis:

In the beginning of the story, we are introduced to Meg Murry. Although she is very bright, her self esteem is very low and this is causing her problems in school. We learn her parents are both scientists, and that her father has been missing for over a year now. We are also introduced to her five year old brother, Charles Wallace, who we discover very quickly is an extremely gifted child with a very close bond to his sister.

On a dark stormy night a strange woman who identifies herself as Ms. Whatsit visits the Murry family and she tells Meg’s mother, “There is such a thing as a Tesseract.” The next day, Charles Wallace takes Meg to meet his new friend Mrs. Whatsit, and her friends Mrs. Who, and Mrs. Which. On their way there they meet up with Calvin O’Keefe, a boy Meg goes to school with, and he and Charles Wallace immediately become friends. The three ladies, who are actually very strange and powerful beings from beyond the Earth, offer to help Meg and Charles find their father. The children learn from Mrs. Whatsit and her friends that the universe is threatened by a great evil called the Dark Thing. They are told several planets have already succumbed to this evil force, including Camazotz, the planet on which Mr. Murry is being held.

The children are transported by Mrs. Whatsit to Camazotz and instruct remain always in each other’s company. On Camazotz, everything appears exactly alike because the whole planet must conform to the terrifying rhythmic pulsation of IT, a giant disembodied brain. Charles Wallace tries to fight IT with his exceptional intelligence but allows himself to be hypnotized to try and save his father. He then leads Meg and Calvin to Mr. Murry and together they confront IT. Meg and Calvin are also unable to withstand IT’s power and escape only at the last minute, when Mr. Murry appears and seizes Meg and Calvin, “tessering” away with them to the planet Ixchel inhabited by tall, furry beasts that care for the travelers. Unfortunately Charles Wallace is left behind and remains possessed by IT.

The three Mrs. W’s appear as Meg realizes that she must travel alone back to Camazotz to rescue her brother. Mrs. Which tells her that she has one thing that IT does not have and this one thing will be her only weapon against the evil. Meg is told she has to discover this weapon for herself. When standing in the presence of IT, Meg finally realizes what this weapon is, her ability to love. By concentrating on her love for Charles Wallace, she is able to restore him to his true identity, releasing him from IT’s clutches and the teasers with him, landing in their vegetable garden on Earth, where her father and Calvin are waiting for her. The family reunites as the three Mrs. W’s visit them one last time.

Personal Response:

• Did this book resonate with you? If so, in what ways? If not, why not? This is one of my favorite books from childhood, and to this day one of my favorite authors. As a child I understood the character of Meg, and many times in life felt a kinship with her in many ways. The feelings of awkwardness and not fitting in were understandable to me, and writings such as this showed me I was not alone.

• Would you recommend this book? If so, to whom and why? If not, why not? I would highly recommend this book, as well as those that followed in the series. This book is good for adolescents who have reached that awkward stage in life where then need to fit in or are questioning the power that love can have on us as a society. This story shows us that not only love, but hope as well can overcome any darkness so long as we believe.

• Would you like to read other books by this author? Why or why not? I have read many other books by this author as she is one of my favorite writers next to Isaac Asimov. Her stories are always ones that make us think, not just of ourselves as individuals, but many times as a society as a whole. The stories challenge our views, and show us how our own individuality can be one of the greatest gifts we have as human beings.

• How does this book demonstrate characteristics of quality literature? This book shows characteristics of good literature in the way it approaches the development of its characters most of all. It keeps them believable, and allows just about anyone who is reading to connect with at least one of the characters, and in doing this allows them to “step” into the story as that character and experience firsthand the lesson that she is conveying to her readers. Each of the characters has their flaws as well as their strengths, and they learn that only by working together are they able to overcome the evil and restore themselves.

• Additional notes/comments/criticisms:
L’Engle has said that “One cannot discuss structure in writing without discussing structure in all life; it is impossible to talk about why anybody writes a book or paints a picture or composes a symphony without talking about the nature of the universe.” This perspective is what makes her one of my favorite authors as she is able to discuss this structure of life without compromising he own morals or beliefs.

Title:The Giving Tree

Author: Shel Silverstein
Illustrator:Shel Silverstein
Publisher: Harper & Row
Date of Publication: 1964
Genre:Picture Book

Short Synopsis:

The Giving Tree follows a friendship between a growing boy and a favorite tree. In the beginning of the story the tree is full grown and healthy and the boy is very young. The tree provides the child with apples, shade, and branches to swing and hang on. As the boy gets older he asks more of the tree and the tree never turns him down. The boy uses the tree to first build his house, and then as he becomes a mature man cuts the tree down in order to make a boat. Through all of this the tree does not protest and offers itself to the boy. Many years later, the boy returns as an old man to the tree, which has nothing left but a stump. The man requests that he be allowed to sit and rest on the trees stump while he waits for his death. The tree again happily gives him what is requested.

Personal Response:

• Did this book resonate with you? If so, in what ways? If not, why not? This was my favorite book as a child and I enjoyed reading this book as an adult. This book through its wonderful illustrations and well structured story telling shows us an example of unconditional love.

• Would you recommend this book? If so, to whom and why? If not, why not? I would highly recommend this book to preschool and early education teachers who are looking for an entertaining story that can be used to teach the value of giving, and the joys that can be had from something as simple as giving without expectation of reward.

• Would you like to read other books by this author? Why or why not? Yes. The author/illustrator did a wonderful job of keeping the story moving, and allowing the pictures to accent and help move the story along, while continuing to holding the interest of the reader. The simple line drawings invoked a very strong feeling of love in the way the tree is shows as it many times almost embraces the boy as he grows.

• How does this book demonstrate characteristics of quality literature? This book shows a good balance between the illustrations and the writing, allowing each to accent the other as the story moves. The story is one that younger children can relate to as they watch the boy grow from a boy to a senior citizen. This progression as he ages and the tree continually gives its “life” to help him succeed models itself from how a parent does all they can to nurture and help their child to succeed, many times to the exclusion of their own well being.

• Additional notes/comments/criticisms:
Even with its age this story transcends time as it looks at the universal emotion of love, and what we will do for it. There is much debate, however, over its interpretation. Some view the boy as selfish as he uses the tree to its “death”, while others such as I see it as the relationship of a parent to their child, where both the tree and the child’s actions are reasonable.

Title:The Snowy Day

Author: Ezra Jack Keats
Illustrator:Ezra Jack Keats
Publisher: Viking Press
Date of Publication: 1962
Genre:Picture Book

Short Synopsis:

The story is of Peter, a young boy living in an apartment in the city, and his adventures as he reacts to a day after a big snow storm. Peter wakes and gets dressed and then goes out and crunches the snow with his feet, makes footprints and tracks through the snow, and drags a stick in snow. Peter is disappointed when the big boys don’t include him in their snowball fight, so he builds a snowman, makes snow angels, and slides down a snow mountain. Peter ends his full day of snow play by taking a warm bath and sharing his adventures with his mother before going to bed. The story ends with his joy of waking to even more snow the next day.

Personal Response:

• Did this book resonate with you? If so, in what ways? If not, why not? This book was an enjoyable read as we were able to sense and feel the awe and wonder of Peter as he explored the Snowy Day, and discovered all of the fun than can be had in the snow. The book covers everything from properly dressing for play in the snow to appropriate games that can be played. The wonderful illustrations in the book not only were an accent to the story, but the words within the story actually would not have any meaning. The story is told as much through the independence of the illustrations and the words as many times one is used to explain the actions of the other rather than just giving a physical representation of the action within the words as many picture books do.

• Would you recommend this book? If so, to whom and why? If not, why not? I would highly recommend this book to preschool and early education teachers who are looking for an entertaining story that can be used to teach students the wonders of exploration. From the first scenes of Peter waking up, right to the final scenes, the book is about the wonders that are out there if we are not afraid to move beyond that we are comfortable with and explore.

• Would you like to read other books by this author? Why or why not? Yes. The author/illustrator did a wonderful job of creating a character in Peter who we all can associate with. He takes great care in developing the character and in subsequent books continues the story of Peter as he continues to grow and mature. I feel these additional books would be a wonderful addition to any teacher’s collection.

• How does this book demonstrate characteristics of quality literature? This book shows an amazing balance between the illustrations and the writing, allowing each to not just accent but to carry the other as the story moves. The story is one that younger children can relate to as they watch Peter explore and discover new things in the world around him. The book never loses focus on its purpose which is to allow us to not just read about Peter’s exploration, but to share in it with him.

• Additional notes/comments/criticisms:
This book also features the first African American main character to be depicted in a children’s picture book. This ground-breaking book was followed by several others written by Keats, including A Whistle for Willie, Peter’s Chair, A Letter to Amy, and Goggles. Each of these books continues to follow Peter as he grows from this shy child into a well adjusted teen.


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