Spotlight on Mac Barnett: Children's Book Must-Haves

In a 2014 TED talk, Why a Good Book is a Secret Door, Mac Barnett introduced himself by stating that his job is to tell lies to children. He clarified this by explaining they are “honest lies.” We think they’re just the kind of lies every kid should grow up with– that is, every kid who needs to believe they live in a world that’s weird, wacky, and utterly full of improbable surprises.

Barnett’s children’s picture books that are innovative, imaginative, and decidedly original. He affirms that good picture books are magic, and with more than 20 publications as well as dozens of awards and recognitions under his belt, he has proven this to be true. In fact, the author even founded the Echo Park Time Travel Mart (a convenience store for time travelers), which benefits the free programs offered at 826LA, a nonprofit organization that helps kids improve their writing skills.

With so many spectacular options, choosing a favorite book written by the author may be challenging. Find out about a handful of his most popular selections. Yours may already be on the list, or perhaps you and your child will discover a new favorite together.

Billy Twitters and His Blue Whale Problem

By Mac Barnett

What kind of pet would a blue whale make, do you imagine? With a tongue as heavy as 400 cats and a body longer than 30 dogs in a row (nose to tail), a blue whale is an awful, demanding pet. Just ask Billy Twitters!

In this fantastical story, Billy’s mom threatens to buy him a blue whale if he doesn’t clean his room, eat his dinner, or brush his teeth, but Billy isn’t worried until the morning he walks outside to find an enormous whale. His whale, Mom says, and he must take it wherever he goes.

Kids will relate to Billy’s struggles (as nonsensical as they may be) and be engrossed as he finds a solution to his blue whale problem.

Guess Again!

By Mac Barnett

Kids love guessing games and riddles, but chances are good your child has never heard such silly questions and answers as you will find in Mac Barnett’s 2009 publication. The rhyming verses and descriptions will cause kids to believe they know the answer to each mystery, but a flip of the page will probably throw them for a giggling loop.

Parents can use this book to teach kids about making predictions. It is also a delightful way to impart the importance of having all of the information possible before making an assumption or drawing conclusions about something or someone.

Oh No! Or, How My Science Project Destroyed the World

By Mac Barnett

Trying to make a big impression, the protagonist of this story –a fifth-grade girl at a school science fair—made a big mistake instead. The massive robot she built goes on a rampage, terrorizing the city. Her idea to stop the robot? Why, build a giant toad, of course!

Probably not the best book to read the night before the science fair (they are already nervous enough!), kids who are fans of comic books or films such as The Iron Giant and Big Hero 6 will be riveted to this story and artwork. You may wish to follow up with the author’s book Oh No! Not Again! (Or, How I Built a Time Machine to Save History) (Or at Least My History Grade).

Chloe and the Lion

By Mac Barnett

An especially fun aspect of this book is that Mac Barnett and Adam Rex, illustrator of the book, are both in the story. In this story, the protagonist Chloe gets lost in the forest where she encountered a...well, according to Mac, it should be a lion, but Adam chose to draw a dragon instead.

The pair’s silly squabble about how the story should proceed takes over the book, giving insight into how books are or perhaps are not created. This book is both a Junior Library Guild Selection and an IndieBound Kids Next List Pick.

Extra Yarn

By Mac Barnett

This is the story of Annabelle, who finds a box of yarn in every color. After knitting sweaters for EVERYONE, including annoying Nate and her teacher, Mr. Norman (who said it would be impossible for her to knit so many sweaters), Annabelle still has extra yarn.

When an archduke offers her millions of dollars for the magical yarn, Annabelle won’t even consider it, so the nobleman sets out to steal the box.

Receiving multiple prestigious awards and honors including winner of the Caldecott Honor and a New York Times bestseller, this story can spark wonderful conversations about generosity and contentment.

Sam & Dave Dig a Hole

By Mac Barnett

Sam and Dave were on a mission and vowed not to stop digging until they had found something spectacular. They tried digging in opposite directions, drank all of the chocolate milk and ate all of the animal crackers, but they still didn’t find anything spectacular.

Kids will want to yell out to the pair, who come so very close to discovering something spectacular. As the story closes, if children look carefully, they will discover that Sam and Dave were successful, after all.

What are some of your favorite book by Mac Barnett?

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Tags : picture books   

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