My Favorite Pets by Jeanne Birdsall and Illustrated by Harry Bliss

I’m pleased to share a uniquely imaginative children’s picture book today. Author Jeanne Birdsall and illustrator Harry Bliss have created what promises to be a wonderfully fun read-aloud for kids and adults alike: My Favorite Pets by Gus W. for Ms. Smolinski’s Class (2016, Alfred A. Knopf).

Gus has a report due today, and he has selected to write about his pet sheep and all of the adventures one could have with pet sheep. Composed primarily on handwriting paper, Gus’s story is imaginative and funny. He realizes that you really can’t trade your baby brother for a sheep or allow the sheep to come for a house tour!

Here’s what I liked about this book:

(1) Gus’s handwriting tells the story. I’ve been reading a lot about writing children’s books lately, and one of the points I’ve been reading about is perspective. {I’ve been reading Linda Ashman’s The Nuts and Bolts Guide to Writing Picture Books.} So I really liked how Birdsall told the story from Gus’s perspective.  I think this contributed greatly to the book!  Teachers and kids can talk about how the story might have been different from another character’s perspective.

(2) The speech bubbles. What is not told in handwriting is told via speech bubbles. Again, I thought this was a really creative move.  I like how Birdsall resists traditional narrative methods.  Teachers and parents might encourage students to practice telling a whole story in just speech bubbles.

(3) The book’s imagination. Readers are taken on a journey of Gus’s imagination. And this book really validates the power of what can come from giving kids time to write and think. This book is a testament to the importance of kids’ creativity and storytelling!  We need to think about how much time our students and kids have to be creative and imaginative.

Let me know what you think of My Favorite Pets in the comments below!

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