Big Machines: The Story of Virginia Lee Burton by Sherri Duskey Rinker and John Rocco

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Think of a favorite author who is also an illustrator. Do you ever wonder about their process? Do they write the story and then work on the illustrations? For Virginia Lee Burton, the illustrations took center stage. Big Machines: The Story of Virginia Lee Burton is a biography that reads like a Disney movie. The vivid colors and imaginative drawings invite us to see “Jinnee” at work. She moves through the pages as if she is performing a ballet about her life as an illustrator. Children will enjoy reading the inspiration behind Burton’s classics with this beautiful book.

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Response to Literature

AASL Standards Framework for Learners: Explore/Share: V.C.1 Learners engage with the learning community by expressing curiosity about a topic of personal interest or curricular relevance.

  • Collect copies of Virginia Lee Burton’s books. Show learners the covers and ask what they notice. Some will notice all books were written and illustrated by the same author.
  • Vote on a book to read aloud. After the reading, ask learners what questions they have about the author. Write questions on chart paper.
  • Say, “I have a biography about Virginia Lee Burton. Let’s read it to see if we can find some of the answers to your questions.”
  • Read Big Machines: The Story of Virginia Lee Burton by Sherri Duskey Rinker and John Rocco. Refer to the chart paper when questions are answered.
  • Ask learners to share the names of authors and illustrators they are curious about.
  • Demonstrate how to search for biographies with the online catalog.
  • Introduce the following blog posts and website to learn about other authors:
  • Celebrate National Author’s Day by inviting learners to write a note to their favorite author. They could write a formal letter, or post a note on social media. National Author’s Day occurs every November 1st. It’s a day to thank authors for sharing their work with us.

Cover of Lessons Inspired by Picture Books for Primary Grades by Maureen Schlosser and Rebecca Granatini.
If you like these lesson ideas, please take a look at our book, Lessons Inspired by Picture Books for Primary Grades. This resource includes ready-to-go lesson plans that meet the standards. Worksheets, assessments and rubrics are included.

Online Resources:
Great Websites for Kids:
Video Interviews with Top Children’s Authors and Illustrators:
18 Best Videos to Get to Know Children’s Authors & Illustrators:

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