Christian Robinson: Telling Stories With Pictures – A Lesson

A few weeks ago I was invited to an elementary school to teach an author study with four second grade classes. When I’ve done this in the past, I usually begin with a short bio about the author, an overview of their books and then read aloud one or two of my favorites. This month I decided to teach a lesson that was a bit of a change. Rather than do an author study, I did an illustrator study and it was so much fun! I chose Christian Robinson, the illustrator who won the Caldecott Honor award in 2015. I began by sharing this PBS video. I hope you’ll share it with your kids. Christian Robinson’s Brief, but Spectacular Take on Telling Stories with Pictures. After viewing the short video, we discussed what they learned about Christian Robinson’s life and the steps he follows as creates the illustrations for a book. We then read Last Stop on Market Street, and The Smallest Girl in the Smallest Grade or School’s First Day of School. They had heard the first book, because it’s currently one of the Illinois’ Monarch books, but the other two were new. I decided to reread Last Stop on Market Street, because I’m a big believer in the importance of discussing a book as it is read aloud, and because of this, every time a child hears a story it helps them to learn something new about the book. We discussed the vocabulary in the books, the themes of the stories, the emotions that the characters were experiencing and of course, the illustrations. We compared and contrasted each of these aspects of the books and were excited to find a lot of similarities, especially in the illustrations. The children pointed out things that I hadn’t even thought of! For example the women in all of the books are wearing triangular shaped earrings, and the children in every story look very much the same. They were thrilled to discover they could recognize Christian Robinson’s style and technique in all of the books. Here are the three books I shared.

Last Stop on Market Street

Words by Matt De La Pena; Pictures by Christian Robinsonchristian robinson

This award winning book tells the story of C.J., who yearns to go home and play after attending church with his Grandma. Instead, C.J. and his nana ride the bus to the very last stop on Market Street. Along the way, CJ peppers Nana with questions about their fellow bus riders and the people they pass by. His wise Grandma’s calm and optimistic explanations help to open CJ’s eyes to the beauty in his world, and also help him to realize just how fortunate they truly are.

Kindness, Diverse stories


christian robinsonthe smallest girl in the smallest grade

Words by Justin Roberts; Pictures by Christian Robinson

Sally is the “smallest girl in the smallest grade” and no one notices her. However, Sally notices everyone and everything from Tommy “tripping” in the hall to the 27 keys on the janitor’s ring. She notices how a whisper can ruin someone’s day and how someone feels when they are pushed off the slide. She finally has enough and announces to her classmates “I’m tired of seeing this terrible stuff! Stop hurting each other! This is enough!” Her outburst inspires not only the children, but also the adults of the school to be a bit kinder and to feel a bit more connected, all because Sally had been paying attention.

Kindness, thoughtfulness

school’s first day of schoolchristian robinson

Story by Adam Res; Pictures by Christian Robinson

Did you ever think about how the school feels on the first day? School’s First Day of School by Adam Rex tells the story from the school building’s perspective. I love imagining what inanimate objects might be thinking and feeling and this story certainly does that. School is brand new and it doesn’t realize what the first day of school means, but his friend the janitor tries to prepare him. When that first day actually arrives, School isn’t so sure he likes the children being there. The children are everywhere and some actually say “this place stinks”. School’s feelings are hurt! When a kindergartner’s mother has to carry her little girl into school, School worries that he must be an awful place. Then lunch time comes and children spill food and milk all over School. School isn’t too happy about that! But afterwards the little kindergartner makes a sparkly picture of School, which he really likes and which makes her feel so much better. At the end of the day, School confides to Janitor that he is probably lucky to be a school! This book is a great one to teach about perspective and point of view, as well as helping those first timers get over their anxiety about the new school year.

Perspective, point of view

I hope your children will enjoy learning about Christian Robinson, as much as the second graders did! Also, I want to remind you that the Caldecott and Newberry awards will be announced on Monday. You can watch the announcement live to learn if any of your favorites are winners!