Art Works Blog

The Big Read for Little Readers

Just because it’s called the Big Read doesn’t mean little readers can’t be involved. Our Big Read communities design all sorts of programming geared toward children, and often choose children’s companion books that draw upon the same themes as the selected Big Read title. Below are a few such books from current and former Big Read communities, which just might spark the idea to start a parent-child read-along of your own.

Big Read Title: Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston
Children’s Companion: Lies and Other Tall Tales compiled by Zora Neale Hurston
Big Read Community: Amherst Glebe Arts Response (2014-15)

An ethnographer as well as a novelist, Zora Neale Hurston spent years traveling the South collecting and recording folk tales. A number of these make up Lies and Other Tall Tales, which are brought to life by Christopher Myers’ illustrations. Although Their Eyes Were Watching God was a tale of Hurston's own making, it is woven throughout with folklore and idiomatic dialect, much of which she learned during her anthropological research.

Big Read Title: To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
Children’s Companion: The Watsons Go to Birmingham – 1963 by Christopher Paul Curtis
Community: Irving Public Library (2014-15)

The Watsons Go to Birmingham – 1963 tackles many of the same issues as To Kill a Mockingbird: racism, injustice, and a child’s struggle to understand a world filled with hatred. The Watsons Go to Birmingham – 1963 tells the story of a fictional African-American family from Michigan who are visiting relatives in Birmingham, Alabama during the summer of 1963. In doing so, they step into an historical hotbed: this is the turbulent summer that Birmingham’s 16th Street Baptist Church is bombed, killing four little girls, and helping ignite the Civil Rights movement. Young readers will not only learn about historical events, but can get a glimpse into what it was like to be an African-American child during the Jim Crow era.

Big Read Title: The Maltese Falcon by Dashiell Hammett
Children’s Companion: The Malted Falcon by Bruce Hale
Big Read Community: Quincy Public Library (2014-15)

A detective who “eats trouble for breakfast,” Chet Gecko sleuths through Emerson Hicky Elementary tracking cagey criminals. From the 1930s slang to Chet’s signature trench coat and fedora, the Chet Gecko series perfectly captures the hardboiled, noir flavor of The Maltese Falcon. Of course, there is plenty of punny language and zany capers to keep things light.

Big Read Title: Sun, Stone, and Shadows by various authors
Children’s Companion: The Lizard and the Sun by Felipe Dávalos
Big Read Community: Yuba Sutter Regional Arts Council (2013-14)

With evocative illlustrations of the Aztec Empire, The Lizard and the Sun retells a Mexican legend about a lizard that once prevented the sun from disappearing forever. With text in both English and Spanish, the book offers the same sense of cultural appreciation as Sun, Stone, and Shadows, a collection of 20 Mexican short stories that offer snapshots of Mexico’s history, culture, and national imagination. 

Big Read Title: The Poetry of Emily Dickinson Children’s Companion: Poetry for Young People: Emily Dickinson Big Read Community: Amherst County Public Library (2013-14)

Although Emily Dickinson’s poetry is often characterized as enigmatic or unexpected, there’s no reason children won’t be able to enjoy her rhythms, words, and descriptions of the natural world. The Poetry for Young People edition illustrates some of Dickinson’s best known poems, while offering a biography of the poet and explanatory notes for difficult vocabulary.

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