Useful Picture Books
These are some picture books that I use in my classroom.  This is not in any way intended to be a comprehensive list, nor is it necessarily intended to endorse any of these books purely as children's literature.  But all of these books have served me well in Drama lessons.  I am always looking for more books to add to this list, and I'd appreciate any suggestions.


After each title I have written a short description of the ways I have used each book, but these should not be understood to limit any book to only the uses I mention.  Frequently a book that works for one thing will work for another.  Exercises in bold-face are described on the page,  Drama from Picture Books.

Chanticleer and the Fox.  Adapted from Chaucer by Barbara Cooney.  New York:  HarperCollins, 1958.
The classic story from Canterbury Tales, about a rooster whose vanity almost lands him in the soup.  I use it for Instant Illustrations, Soundtrack, and sometimes Problem-Solving Exercise.  (Caldecot Medal.)

The King's Choice.  Retold by K. Shivkumar, Illustrated by Yoko Mitsuhashi.  New York:  Parents' Magazine Press, 1961.
I have no idea whether this book is still in print.  It's an Indain folk tale about a Lion and his court.  I used it for the basis of my game, The Lion King's Court, but the book is not necessary to play the game.  You could also do Instant Illustrations or What's Up, Tiger Lily.

The Little Baby Snoogle-Fleejer.  Jimmy Carter, Illustrated by Amy Carter.
Yes, those Carters.  And it's just the sort of story you'd expect--sweet, didactic, and painfully earnest.  It's the story of a crippled boy who makes friends with the sea monster everyone else fears.  I confess I bought this book because I thought the idea of a children's book by the former leader of the free world was a funny idea, and it's really not a great book, but it makes for great Role Drama.  You could also do Instant Illustrations or Soundtrack.

Make Way for Ducklings.  Robert McCloskey.  New York:  The Viking Press, 1941.
I said this wasn't necessarily an endorsement of the book, but in this case it is.  This is a classic that's still readily available in any bookstore.  It's about a family of ducks making their way through the city streets of Boston to the Public Gardens, and it's wonderful.  I use it for Problem-Solving Exercise, Simple Story Dramatization, Instant Illustrations, and Narrative Pantomime.  Little ones especially love forming the line of ducklings who follow Mrs. Mallard (me--we're into gender-blind casting here) down the city streets, quacking away.  (Caldecot Medal.)

A River Ran Wild.  Lynne Cherry.  New York:  Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1992.
The true story of the cleanup project that rejuvenated the Nashua River in Massachusetts and New Hampshire.  I do a sort of Role Drama exercise in which we "canoe" down an imaginary Nashua River at three different times in its history--before the arrival of man thousands of years ago, in the 1950s when it was most polluted, and today--and observe the animals and other sights, and how they change.  (Eventually I'll write this lesson up and include it on this site.)  You could also do a great Soundtrack, or Instant Illustrations.

Saint George and the Dragon.  Retold from Spenser by Margaret Hodges, Illustrated by Trina Schart Hyman.  Boston:  Little, Brown and Company, 1984.
The classic tale.  I use it for an activity in which we create, using all of our bodies, a working model of the dragon.  Then I, in role as the Knight, "kill" the dragon one piece at a time, as described in the story.  It may sound gorey, but my students--remember that I teach in a boys' school--love it, and it requires a great deal of teamwork and careful planning, which makes it an excellent educational experience.  You could also do Soundtrack or Instant Illustrations with great success.  (Caldecot Medal.)

The Snowy Day.  Ezra Jack Keats.  New York:  Puffin Books, 1962.
This is a great book.  A new snowfall makes the world into a magical playground for a small boy.  I use it for Narrative Pantomime.  You could also do Instant Illustrations.  (Caldecot Award Book.)

Stone Soup.  Marcia Brown.  New York:  Simon and Schuster, 1947.
Classic folk fable about a magnificent soup made from stones.  The story is about greed and sharing.  I have created and produced a play based on this book with 1st graders.  You could also do Simple Story Dramatization or Instant Illustrations.  (Caldecot Honor Book.)

The Story of Ferdinand.  Munro Leaf, Illustrated by Robert Lawson.  New York:  Puffin Books, 1936.
A pacifist story about bullfighting!  This classic book tells the story of a young bull who hates fighting, but who is accidentally chosen for the bullfights anyway.  I use it for Problem-Solving Exercise with Kindergarten.  We act out the bulls butting heads, and Ferdinand sitting on the bee.  Sometimes we play the bee as well.  All without touching each other!  How we solve the problem of doing this varies, of course.  You could also do a Narrative Pantomime, What's Up, Tiger Lily or Instant Illustrations.

Swimmy.  Leo Lionni.  New York:  Alfred A. Knopf, 1963.
The story of a fish who is different, and how he finally saves the day.  This is a book for very young children, but I have found it useful for Drama with even older elementary students.  In it, the protagonist, Swimmy, sees many new sea creatures, and describes them without knowing what they are--for example a Lobster is a giant water-moving machine.  This idea can be developed by having the children imagine other animals he might have seen, and describing them in the same manner.  This is an extremely creative activity.  Sometimes I'll expand it to apply to other characters, or other settings as well.  (What would a person who had never seen a school bus unloading think it was?  A giant yellow caterpillar giving birth to children?)  You can also do Problem-Solving, Simple Story Dramatization, Instant Illustrations, Narrative Pantomime--even Role Drama--with this fun book.  (Caldecot Honor Book.)

Sylvester and the Magic Pebble.  William Steig.  New York:  Simon & Schuster, 1969.
The story of an anthropomorphic donkey who accidentally turns himself into a boulder.  I have used this book as the basis for a 1st grade presentation play.  You could also do Instant Illustrations.  (Caldecot Medal.)

Tuesday.  David Wiesner.  New York:  Clarion Books, 1991.
One of the strangest an most wonderful books of the last ten years.  Using virtually no text and gorgeous pictures, the book tells of a strange invasion of flying frogs in the middle of the night in a sleepy town.  I do a short Role Drama exercise, in which we become townspeople who wake up to find evidence of the frogs' visit.  If you have a really creative group, it might be fun to try Soundtrack.  (Caldecot Medal.)

Walking to School.  Poem by Ethel Turner, Illustrated by Peter Gouldthorpe.  New York:  Orchard Books, 1989.
A verse story of a boy's first time walking to school by himself.  I use it for Soundtrack.  It would also work for Narrative Pantomime, and maybe Instant Illustrations.

We're All in the Dumps with Jack and Guy.  Maurice Sendak.  New York:  HarperCollins, 1993.
This book caused all manner of controversy when it was published, not that that was anything new for Sendak.  It's a marvelous if bizzarre book that takes two lesser-known Mother Goose rhymes and sets them in a community of homeless.  Some people think it has a homosexual theme, which accounts for the controversy (ridiculous, in my opinion), but what makes it such a great book for use in Drama is that it is almost wholly open to individual interpretation.  I use it for a sort of variation of What's Up, Tiger Lily.

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