I’ve been a longtime fan of the children’s book creator, Chris Raschka, and so was completely delighted to see the interview he gave over at Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast. This reminded me of the ways I’ve used his books in our weekly Literary Salons when the children bring in baked treats, I provide juice, and we do something “literary.” Sometimes it is a bunch of prepared readings from recent books the kids have read. Sometimes it is choral poetry. Or original poetry. Sometimes it is readers’ theater. Or something Newberyish. And sometimes it is Chris Raschka.
If I think the particular group of kids are right for it I read Arlene Sardine, arguably his most controversial book. I love it. Sometimes the kids do and sometimes they don’t get it at all. Years ago I wrote “Pets and Other Fishy Books” for Horn Book, mulling over kid responses to it and other unconventional books. The kids I wrote about in the article didn’t get it, but later groups have.
Then there are the wonderful jazz books. I’ve used Charlie Parker Played Be Bop, John Coltrane’s Big Steps, and Mysterious Thelonious playing the music before, after, or even during. I’m afraid, not being musical myself, I can’t do the readings the justice that Chris does, but I try and the kids help me. Often I conclude this salon with a completely different sort of music book, Simple Gifts. The kids always participate in that reading. Lovely.
If you are not familiar with the work of Chris Raschka, do check him out. There are many other wonderful books of his I’ve used elsewhere in the classroom — poetry books, music books, word books, and story books of all sorts. Absolutely lovely.