When you’re at the library or trying to buy books for your 7- to 11-year-olds, do you feel like you’re out of ideas? Do you honestly even know how to choose books that will expand your elementary school-aged childrens’ imagination while teaching them the elements of great literature?
Sure, maybe you don’t tell Tommy Jr. that an author is using suspension of disbelief, a framed plot, and a clear-cut resolution in so many words. But, if you discover quality, engaging books together now, just think of how little Tommy Jr. is picking up clues on what makes a great book a great book. What a great life skill to have to hand on down to further generations, huh?
Here is an example of a phenomenal book for children ages 7-11.
“The Reluctant Dragon,” written by Kenneth Grahame and illustrated by Michael Hague, is a fairy tale in which the reader needs to suspend disbelief. The pattern of action includes a climax and neat resolution. Universal themes are also represented in this picture book.
Grahame asks you to suspend disbelief through setting by placing it “long ago – might have been hundreds of years ago…” Suspension of disbelief through character occurs through the book-learned boy who insists that he knows dragons. “I always said, you know, that that cave up there was a dragon cave. I always said it must have belonged to a dragon sometime, and ought to belong to a dragon now, if rules count for anything.” Only one thing surprises the boy about the dragon: “none of my books every told me that dragons purred!” Also, the illustrations consistently show the dragon with people who are not surprised of his existence.
The pattern of action in the story is an upward slanting line followed by a peak or climax. The line then slide downs as the denouement, or tying up of loose ends, heads toward a resolution.
On page 34, the climax occurs (when the book is three-quarters finished). It reaches a successful resolution, because everyone is happy. Spoiler Alert: Saint George wins, the dragon gets to attend the banquet, and the little boy gets to observe a scene he could only have before read about.
And, after the fight where the dragon is supposedly defeated, they are still all the best of friends. According to the text and the final illustration, all three characters head up the hill “arm-in-arm” into the night in true fairy-tale fashion.
Each character is expected to fulfill their own personal and social responsibilities. Also, another related theme is that everyone wants good to defeat evil. These are both universal themes in high fantasy. For example, the good Saint is expected to defeat the dragon – be a winner and fulfill his role in society as a fierce, brave fighter. He is pictured as debonair with his impressive costume and erect posture. The evil dragon is expected to be a pestilent scourge and an enemy to man, even though this particular dragon hates fighting and possesses a poetic heart. He is pictured as ugly and frightening. The boy, like the townspeople, is expected to fulfill his role by being interested – even arranging — fights of this nature.
“The Reluctant Dragon” is a fairy tale in which the author and illustrator successfully allow their audience to suspend disbelief. While the story is quite linear to begin with, the pattern of action includes a climax and clear-cut resolution. Although “The Reluctant Dragon” is a picture book, it contains universal themes to educate children while entertaining them, too.
For more information on picking books for children’s age groups, check out my Yahoo Voices article, “Choosing the Best Picture Books for Children.”
Don’t stay a reluctant, book-choosing parent! For more great children’s books, head on over to FamilyEducation.com for the classics listed by appropriate age groups.