________________ CM . . . . Volume XV Number 20 . . . . May 29, 2009

cover The Picture Book Experience: Choosing and Using Picture Books in the Classroom.

Larry Swartz.
Markham, ON: Pembroke, 2009.
32 pp., stapled, $12.95.
ISBN 978-1-55138-235-7.

Subject Headings:
Picture books for children-Educational aspects.
School children-Books and reading. Children’s literature-History and criticism.


Review by Reesa Cohen.

*** /4

This new offering from Larry Swartz is meant to encourage teachers to look at picture books in a deeper and more meaningful way while encouraging them to reflect on how they might employ picture books in the classroom. Used in this manner, The Picture Book Experience can be considered as a valuable resource, showing teachers how words and pictures help inform readers.

    Six chapters cover some very practical information which includes guidance on selecting, sharing, and extending the enjoyment of picture books. The first few chapters feature a personal “picture book inventory”; details to help the teacher define a picture book; and a breakdown of the types of picture books that can help instructors in their quest to use this resource in the classroom. Many of the types listed include examples, a very supportive strategy especially to new teachers. The author encourages readers to classify books in their classroom, to add titles to those already listed in his book, and to increase the categories he lists. As a teacher of children’s literature, I appreciate this offer because I see several categories that I would have noted, such as concept books and sophisticated picture books.

    Other interesting features include a “Hall of Fame” for picture book authors and illustrators, top 10 lists, and a few handy reproducible masters and graphic organizers.

    Perhaps the most outstanding area in this book is the author’s emphasis on the importance of sharing all kinds of books by reading aloud, and he includes several excellent tips to encourage a deeper response from students both during and after the reading of the story. The response ideas run the gamut, including drama, Venn diagrams, character webs, story board sequences and several ideas that Swartz labels as Class Events. The attention given to responding to illustrations in a picture book was especially welcomed.

    Larry Swartz bring a wealth of experience to the topic of children’s literature, having co-authored several books in this area. In an interview for Open Book Toronto, Larry states that this book is the third in a trilogy, the first two titles being The Novel Experience and The Poetry Experience (with Sheree Fitch). Although there is a Professional Reading list, there is no specified reference sources for this title, which is a bit surprising. When asked about the research he conducted for The Picture Book Experience, the author states and I quote:

"Actually, much of my research entails keeping up to date with picture books. I visit book stores and websites, read reviews from journals, have conversations with like-minded colleagues in an attempt to keep current.”

    As in other recent publications from Pembroke, the information is presented in a flip book format that is easy to read and follow, with colourful boxes of information interspersed throughout. Is this the new style/flavour of 2009 from this publisher? If the intent is to make this publication, which focuses solely on picture books, more accessible, compact and handy instead of a full children’s literature text, then the author/editor has succeeded. Is the information better, more current and inclusive then a more comprehensive source, I think not. But the activities that enhance literacy through the use of picture books make this a worthy reference tool for classroom teachers.


Andrea Galbraith is a librarian, writer, and parent living in Vancouver, BC.

To comment on this title or this review, send mail to cm@umanitoba.ca.

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