Picture Books, Humor & Vocabulary


Author Ryan T. Higgins is hysterical. I mean unexpected, fall-down-laughing hysterical. His two children’s books are favorites in my classroom.  The storyline is a grumpy old bear who likes eggs, and what happens is imaginative and funny.  I read Mother Bruce to all my fellow staff at school and they laughed, out-of-control laughing.  It was hard to rein them in.

Here’s the twist; Mother Bruce and Hotel Bruce appeal to both children and adults. That makes it a delightful read for parents and their children.  I remember watching The Muppets on TV with our kids.  This show appealed to both children and adults (the two old men in the balcony is a case in point).  Therefore, families watched it together.  If a book is good enough to appeal to both, that’s a brass ring.  Parents will want to read the book aloud, and children will benefit from far more than just a good story.

That benefit is vocabulary!

This is the single most important item to ensure that a child will succeed in all subject areas in school.  All areas!  The more words a child hears, the better s/he will do in school.  Period.  Wow!

That fact changed my life in teaching.

I have always loved reading books to children, and then I took the next step; I made sure books in the classroom were front-facing, I read stories with a passion, stopping at every ‘new word’.  That was brilliant.  We looked up those words in the dictionary (yes, in the middle of reading the story).  I read a story at least twice a day, and also whenever a child wanted to read.

Yes, they wanted to read.  Books were everywhere in my classroom.  The more we read together, the more we wanted to read.  And, the better the children performed.  Morning Meetings became long, sometimes over fifteen minutes, because we had important things to learn- geography, math, science experiments, instruments, famous artists, poetry… there was so much to learn and reading books gave children the focus and vocabulary to absorb it all.

That is powerful and cements why I do what I do.

The vocabulary words in Mother Bruce and Bruce Hotel that children were eager to learn are: victim, stern, pesky, migration, creative, reluctantly, hibernate, rodents, commotion, and translator.  My children are three and four years old.  I doubt many children of this age learn these words.


Thank you Ryan T. Higgins for quality literature that appeals to all ages.  Good literature is my tool to make a difference.


About Jennie

I have been teaching preschool for over thirty-five years. This is my passion. I believe that children have a voice, and that is the catalyst to enhance or even change the learning experience. Emergent curriculum opens young minds. It's the little things that happen in the classroom that are most important and exciting. That's what I write about. I was a live guest on the Kelly Clarkson Show. I am highlighted in the seventh edition of Jim Trelease's million-copy bestselling book, "The Read-Aloud Handbook" because of my reading to children. My class has designed quilts that hang as permanent displays at the National Liberty Museum in Philadelphia, the Fisher House at the Boston VA Hospital, and the Massachusetts State House in Boston.
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27 Responses to Picture Books, Humor & Vocabulary

  1. James R. says:

    Helpful review. I have a young one myself- now I know what to buy her for Christmas.

  2. I’m going to have to invest in Bruce for my grandson for Christmas. Thanks for the recommendation, Jennie. Over to Amazon I go 😀

  3. I loved Mother Bruce. Can’t wait to read Hotel Bruce!

  4. Vocabulary — yes! When I worked for a weekly newspaper, there was nearly always a dictionary open on my lap. My colleagues would say things like “Why have you got the dictionary open? You’re the only one in the office that doesn’t need it.” Ha ha ha. Often I was checking spelling. Othertimes I was checking to see if a particular usage was in the ballpark. When I looked up one word, my eye would fall on another word I didn’t know and off I’d go. I’ve been doing this since I was a little kid — with encyclopedias as well as dictionaries.

    • Jennie says:

      That’s great, Susanna! I have the Scholastic Children’s Dictionary handy when we learn a new vocabulary word. It is a wonderful tool to use in the moment, far better than an iPad. We begin with the red on the edges when the dictionary is closed- that helps to learn the alphabet and find the word. After we finish reading our book, we often go back to the dictionary and look up words. I worry that other preschoolers don’t have that opportunity.

      • These days in my work as an editor I use online dictionaries entirely (I usually have three open in my browser at any given time!), but with them it’s impossible for your eye to fall on another word above or below or in the next column over from the one you’re looking up. Old-style print dictionaries are much better for that.

  5. John Lippitt says:

    Awesome as usual, Jennie. I could use a good laugh about now. I’m glad kids have so much more fun than adults!

  6. “I remember watching The Muppets on TV with our kids. This show appealed to both children and adults (the two old men in the balcony is a case in point). Therefore, families watched it together.”
    Yep, Ma always said children’s literature/movies didn’t have to be dumbed down for the kids!
    Jennie: I always relate to your posts and/or learn something and feel like I am cheering you on in the sidelines to continue with your passionate vision for your ‘kids’. so…
    I nominated you for the Liebster Award. There’s no pressure to participate, but I wanted to give voice to your blog and personal message.
    Please consider it. http://laurabrunolilly.com/the-liebster-my-very-first-blogging-award/

  7. I’m definitely going to have to give these books another look. I flipped through Mother Bruce way too quickly when it first came out and haven’t even looked at Hotel Bruce. They sound like lots of fun and I love your apron and puppet!

    • Jennie says:

      Thank you, Marcia. I recommend taking your time reading through Mother Bruce. There is plenty of subtle humor. Many people I know are getting this book for their husbands for Christmas, even though it’s a children’s book. Like The Muppetts TV show, it works for both ages. Glad you like my apron and puppet!

  8. Pingback: Kids' Books to Remember (to help you on your next library visit) | Red Canoe Reader

  9. Reblogged this on Wanda D. Jefferson and commented:
    A Teachers Reflections is amazing!

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