Using Picture Books to Teach Narrative Voice

fourth-wall-with-title

In all my years as a reader, literature student, picture book reader extraordinaire, and homeschooling parent, I’ve always loved books with interesting narrative technique. I especially love anything that breaks the fourth wall, thanks to a semester studying Golden Age Spanish theater. We finished off our story elements unit by discussing narrative voice. The picture book world is full of great examples of narrators that address the reader. Here are the titles we used (and loved):

Interrupting Chicken by David Ezra Stein, which manages to be both charming and remind parents everywhere about reading a book to their own incorrigible chickens.

Chester by Mélanie Watt (and the equally hilarious sequels, Chester’s Back! and Chester’s Masterpiece) all about a secondary character gone rogue. My kids laugh themselves silly with everything by Mélanie Watt. This is no exception.

More Bears! by Kenn Nesbitt and Troy Cummings. The author doesn’t want any bears in his story, but when children off the page clamor for more and more bears, things get silly.

Z is for Moose by Kelly Bingham and Paul Zelinsky. Moose just can’t wait for his turn in the alphabet book Zebra is planning.

The True Story of the Three Little Pigs by Jon Scieszka and Lane Smith, the book I can’t stop talking about. Expect it to come back up again this spring when we do an entire fairy tale unit.

Frankencrayon by Michael Hall has a narrator that addresses the reader, a whole cast of supporting characters with distinct voices, and a villain in disguise.

Because we were getting close to Christmas break and my children are young, we read the books and identified what was interesting or unusual about the narrator or the way the story is told. (Frankencrayon led to especially interesting discussion.) When they get a little older, or some evening when I miss literary analysis, I will use Romelle Broas’s detailed analysis of the different ways children’s books can break the fourth wall.

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