Tuesday, December 10, 2019

ReFoReMo's Best Mentor Texts of 2019

If you are like us, you always find at least one picture book each year that stands out. It's the pet you must adopt, the fish you can't throw back, the book that ends up nestled in your arms and buckled into your passenger seat for the ride home. The selections below are mentors in multiple ways and deserving of the highest honors.

Congratulations to the authors, illustrators, and publishers chosen as ReFoReMo's Best Mentor Texts of 2019!

Carrie Charley Brown's Honoree
Author: Beth Ferry
Illustrators: The Fan Brothers
Publisher: HarperCollins September 3, 2019

In this brilliant mentor text, the illustrations are an immediate invitation. From a cover that reveals a kind-faced close-up to the broader perspective of Scarecrow standing in a golden field all alone at the page turn, it’s hard to believe that this lonely scarecrow is defending the farmer’s field so successfully. 

The text’s (perfect) lyrical rhyme draws us closer to the Scarecrow’s heart. We remain to see if he will gain a friend and if he is indeed as scary as the animals think he is. The Scarecrow has a magical way of communicating themes of kindness and compassion. More than anything, it is a picture book with heart, but it’s the interplay between pictures and words, the lyrical beauty of the text, and the character interaction that make it so.  

Relatability captivates the reader, creating high-interest page turns and tension that propel the story forward. Not only does this story master the picture book craft, but I also believe it could and should take first prize in the Caldecott race. Authors and illustrators alike need to read and learn from this story.

Kirsti Call's Honoree
Author: Ame Dyckman
Illustrator: Charles Santoso
Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers  April 2, 2019

"Daddy spied something scary on his perfect lawn.  
He ran for his clippers...
But he was too late."

In Dandy, Daddy Lion tries to get rid of a dandelion that mars his perfect yard. But his daughter thwarts him at every turn since the weed is now her best friend. Hilarious and heartwarming and filled with realistic scenarios, this is a laugh-out-loud read aloud. 

Charles Santoso's art enhances the already funny words to create the ideal mentor text. Ame manages to cleverly cover themes of family, love, peer pressure, sacrifice and daddy daughter relationships with her text and context. Just the title alone makes me want to read this over and over again.  Dandy, dandelion, daddy-lion?  I can't resist such wordplay!  The book is delightful and honestly? Just dandy.

Janie Reinart's Honoree
Author: Kim Norman
Illustrator: Bob Kolar
Publisher: Candlewick  July 16, 2019    

This story is a fabulous read aloud. Sea creatures are making away with the pirate skeleton’s bones. The rhythm makes you want to dance. Kim Norman masterfully uses a unique rhyme scheme. The last words in the stanza are the same. The second to the last word in three of the lines rhyme. In all the stanzas the fourth line does not rhyme.

During the story the skeleton is rebuilt piece by piece. The clever nonfiction bonus has the reader learning the correct names of bones in the body. 

The pirate has a peg leg—and a shark follows him. The ending line is “There’s treasure to be found here—I feel it in my bones.” The book jacket has a poster on the flip side with all the names of the bones.  

“Now I need my gnaw bone,
my chicken-chomping saw bone.
I’ll starve without my jawbone.

I miss my mandible.”

Keila Dawson's Honoree
Author: Isabel Quintero
Illustrator: Zeke Pena
Publisher: Kokila  May 14, 2019

A little girl named Daisy Ramona waits for her father to come home from work so they could ride around their neighborhood on his motorcycle. 

My Papi Has a Motorcycle is not a classic story structure with a story arc where the main character goes on a quest and ends up a different person than they were in the beginning. Instead, Quintero's story is a tribute to her father and the town in California where she grew up. The author’s lyrical language, word choice including Spanish vocabulary gives an authentic voice to her storytelling and through the art Zeke Peña delivers the action, movement, and details of Daisy's community so readers feel like they too, are along for the ride. In an author’s note, Quintero shares her memories about the city of her childhood and the immigrant workers who built it that inspired the story.  

Cindy Schrauben's Honoree
Author: Frank Murphy
Illustrator: Kayla Harren
Publisher: Sleeping Bear Press  July 15, 2019

This picture book challenges the age-old stereotypes of appropriate boy behavior. Although it doesn’t follow the typical story arc, it stretches our minds in powerful ways.

The following passage has sparked meaningful discussions in my household.

“Here’s a secret that not many people know.
Fear and bravery are partners.
You can’t be brave without first being afraid.”

The text, as well as the diverse illustrations, ensures that every boy can see himself in this book. Although there are many others, I would include A BOY LIKE YOU in the following lists:  Big Ideas/Themes, Compassion Inspiring, Identity, Relatable Main Characters, Tough Topics, Universal/Common Themes.

As our blog settles in for a long winter's nap, consider taking time to reserve these at your local library. It may fuel your mentor text motivation for the new year.
From our families to yours... Happy Holidays and Happy New Year!


  1. The Scarecrow is a master class! Thanks for sharing!

  2. Thanks for giving us this list of outstanding mentors. A great gift, as are all your posts throughout the year. Happy holidays!

  3. Wonderful choices. I have read of few of these but will be definitely looking for the others to add to my list! Thanks!

  4. Great list! I've added all to my library request list. Even the ones I've already read, because when it comes to Reading for Research, multiple readings pay off!

  5. Nice list! Enjoy your long winter nap. See you in the new year! :)

  6. Wonderful books! Thank you for all that you do to help us use mentor texts to improve our own stories!