Educational Reform is Easy! Just Use Picture Books

BookendsLynn and Cindy: While shapes are a common subject for picture books, it is still a pleasure to find new ones that are both fun and instructive for young readers. If it were left to us, we’d throw out all the boring textbooks for the primary grades and stock them with fabulous picture books. See—educational reform is easy! Any other major problems you need solved?

trianglesLynn: Even saying the word “geometry” gives me the cold whimjams so the fact that I am enthusing about the subject in David Adler’s Triangles (2014) should make you all rush out and buy it without further ado. Seriously, folks, I would normally run the other direction from a book that even hints at math concepts. This one, however, is extremely effective and fun, too!

I’m holding my arms up at right angles and
cheering for this really outstanding book!

Two appealing hydrant-shaped children and a helpful domed robot are busily building another robot. As they draw, sketch, and construct, the concept of triangles takes shape. Beginning with a definition and using correct terminology, the various parts of triangles are explained. Angles, measurements, degrees, and types of angles come next as the robot comes together in the pictures. Adler’s text is admirably clear, with pauses for questions and excellent clarifying examples. Edward Miller’s illustrations are terrific, too. Not only are the diagrams and examples clear and helpful, they are clever and engaging with just the right touch of humor. Miller uses bright, primary colors that really pop and even the end pages are fun, with examples of various types of triangles scattered on grid paper. The book ends with the completion of the new robot, a question (“Are you good triangle detectives?”), and a fun challenge.

I’m holding my arms up at right angles and cheering for this really outstanding book!

Circle Square MooseCindy: Circle Square Moose (2014) by Kelly Bingham doesn’t have the geometric precision of Adler’s book (a sandwich is sort of square and a piece of pie a triangle if you don’t need to measure angles) but it playfully examines the concept of shapes—when Moose doesn’t get in the way. A sequel for the brilliant Z is for Moose was inevitable, and while the joke may have worn thin for adults, I expect to hear lots of giggling when this is read by or shared with young children who adore Moose. Circles, squares, triangles, rectangles, diamonds, curves and a star round out the shapely fun with moose and zebra romping through it all. The friendship theme takes shape here, too, and who couldn’t use more patient, steady, enthusiastic friendships in their life? Paul O. Zelinsky’s exuberant illustrations will have young children looking for shapes in their own worlds. And if the moose stories prompt parents to hold conversations with their children about appropriate time and place for behaviors, this middle-school educator would cheer. Watch the cheeky book trailer for more fun.

P.S. While I was linking to our original post for Z is for Moose, I got my own behavior lesson, and a chuckle. Here’s part of what I said 2 1/2 years ago:

Bookends readers who know Lynn and me will see a resemblance here . . . I am Moose with unbridled enthusiasm and runaway ego, and Lynn is Zebra–the orderly one with the clipboard returning me to my place and keeping the blog running on schedule. One of the hard things about reading children’s books with gentle messages is when you realize that they are targeting YOU as well. I have seen Lynn throw an indignant tantrum or two, though, and she can give Moose a run for his money when she has been wronged.

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About the Author:

Cindy Dobrez and Lynn Rutan are Booklist reviewers and middle-school librarians who have chaired both ALA’s Best Books for Young Adults and the Michael L. Printz Award for YA Literature committees. Follow Bookends on Twitter at @BookendsBlog. You can also find Cindy at @cdobrez and Lynn at @482april.

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