Friday, September 4, 2009

Classic Children's and Young Adult Literature

Classic Children's Literature
LITTLE BEAR by Else Holmelund Minarik, pictures by Maurice Sendak

Bibliographic Information:
Minarik, E. H. (1957). Little bear. New York: Harper Collins Publisher.


Little Bear and Mother Bear are the main characters in the book. The book is broken down into four stories. Little Bear is like a typical child with a wild imagination and seeks his mother's attention a great deal. Little Bear has several adventures throughout the book, including making himself a birthday soup for his friends when he thinks Mother Bear has forgotten to get him a birthday cake. The overwhelming theme in the book is the love Mother Bear has for her Little Bear that she demonstrates through her patience, indulgences, and time. A very loving book.

Lead Comments:

Little Bear and Mother Bear have a special relationship. She is very patient with his many requests and is willing to give him most of what he requests, but there's always this air of her being all knowing. She understands Little Bear better than he does himself, but eventually, Little Bear figures out what Mother Bear knew all along! There is love in all that Mother Bear does for Little Bear, and even though she at times seems a bit over indulgent, she is a fantastic mother. My favorite story in the book was Little Bear's Wish, where he continually wishes for things that will never come true, Mother Bear honestly tells him that he can't have those wishes, until Little Bear finally wishes for something Mother Bear can give him, a story. In her story, Mother Bear revisits all the previous stories and Little Bear adventures in the book, kind of like a review of the whole book. Very cute.
Language Arts: (Excerpt)
These tender and eloquent stories about Little Bear (the first Harper I Can Read Book) are told with a forthright simplicity that is never forced or artificially repetitious. (Retrieved September 13, 2009 from
Harper Collins Publishers: (Excerpt)
In 1957, Harper published its first I Can Read title, Little Bear, written by Else Holmelund Minarik and illustrated by Maurice Sendak. Large type, simple vocabulary, chapter-like divisions, and decorative pictures made Little Bear perfect for emerging readers—they could read the story comfortably and not feel overwhelmed by the text...(Retrieved September 13, 2009 from

Teacher Tools & Library Leads:

In the first story, What Will Little Bear Where?, Little Bear is cold outside in the snow and keeps asking for more and more clothes. This can lead to the discussion about the differences between people and bears, why Little Bear was finally warmer without the clothes, and what bears really do in the winter. Kids love to talk about their birthdays. Let each child tell about a favorite birthday memory. Would any of their families or friends forget their birthdays? A great discussion of gravity could be started after reading the story, Little Bear Goes to the Moon. Little Bear thinks, if he climbs high enough, he will fall up to the moon. Demonstrate gravity by dropping something. Do things fall up or down?

Classic Young Adult Literature
The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton

Bibliographic Information:

Hinton, S. E. (1967). The outsiders. New York: Penguin Group. ISBN-10: 0-14-038572-X.


A group of young men considered "Greasers" form a kind of family on the streets as they look out for each other and fight against their rivals the "Socials". The universal themes of the struggle between the classes, genders and relationships gives this novel a heart wrenching tone that goes across the generations with ease. Written in the early sixties by a female high school student, S.E. Hinton captures the love some young men form for each other as they struggle to identify with themselves and those around them. Be prepared to hurt as these young men fight to stay alive in a tough neighborhood, in a tough city.

Lead Comments:

I had never read The Outsiders, so when I found it on my reading list for my SLIS 5420 class I decided now was my chance. I had purchased a used copy a couple years ago, but always found something else to read. When I finally began to read it, I had a hard time setting the book down. The storyline was compelling; the violence so well described I at times felt sick to my stomach; and the relationships were realistic and complicated. The characters reminded me of some of my 9th grade students I used to teach who were also struggling between the roles they played in their families, their gangs, and in school.

Penguin Group Publishers: (Excerpt)
The ruthlessly realistic and violent story of the Greasers and the Socs, rival gangs from very different sides of the railroad tracks, is narrated by Ponyboy Curtis, a smart, sensitive kid who has grown to become one of the most recognizable figures in the history of young adult literature. Any teen who has ever felt isolated or different can identify with Ponyboy, a kid forced to be tough on the outside, but who underneath is just as scared and needy as anyone...Young Adult fiction was shaped and defined by Susan Eloise Hinton, and the realism she attached to the genre became the norm, enabling later writers like Robert Cormier and Judy Blume to find characters and voices that actually spoke to adolescents. (Retrieved on September 8, 2009, from
Viking Publishers: (Excerpt)
First published by Viking in 1967, The Outsiders immediately resonated with young adults. This groundbreaking novel was like nothing else out there—it was honest and gritty, and was a deeply sympathetic portrayal of Ponyboy, a young man who finds himself on the outside of regular society. (Retrieved September 13, 2009 from

Teacher Tools & Library Leads:
This book leads to many discussions of what expectations young adults carry for themselves and what expectations others have for them. Thinking about the future is difficult for young adults to do, they seem to live day to day. The Outsiders can act as a springboard for discussions about Ponyboy and what he will do with his live now, what his brothers will do, and even what some of the Socials will do. Several essays could be written using Ponyboy's future, your students' futures, and the idea of crossing over the social gap and societies expectations.

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