Last week the New York Times released its annual list of Best Illustrated books (you can see them here). In honor of that, this week I wanted to share one of my favorite picture books that was a choice of the New York Times in 1999 and demonstrates an aspect of Picture Books that I haven't discussed yet...the blending of nonfiction facts and whimsical story.
Emeline at the Circus by Marjorie Priceman
On a trip to the circus with her class, second grader Emeline gets more than a front row seat when she's unsuspectedly snatched into the action by an elephant craving her peanuts.
Emeline's teacher is determined to make the circus a learning lesson for her students. Never glancing up from her book of facts, she reads off information on each new attraction that enters the ring. She's so involved in teaching that she doesn't notice one of her students has become the hilarious star of the show.
The majority of the text consists of facts on popular sights at the circus, covering everything from elephants and tigers to acrobats. What really makes this book special is the story told in the delightful pictures and the interactions between the two. The whole time, the reader feels like he or she is in on the joke with Emeline. There's also a beautiful little message hidden in this interplay; sometimes learning is better done through living.