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August 30

Caldecott Medal-winner Virginia Lee Burton was born on this day in 1909.

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Caldecott Medal-winner Virginia Lee Burton was born on this day in 1909.

Grades 3 – 12
Calendar Activity Type Author & Text





Children's book author and illustrator Virginia Lee Burton was born in Newton Centre, Massachusetts in 1909. Burton won the Caldecott Medal for The Little House in 1943, and her illustrations for Song of Robin Hood (1948) placed the book on the Caldecott Honor list.





During her life, Burton wrote and illustrated seven books, and she illustrated an additional five books, including The Emperor's New Clothes (Houghton, 1949). Burton's books lend themselves nicely to an author study because of their many connections. Share the books written and illustrated by Burton with students and, in addition to discussing similarities in her illustrations and writing style, focus on her use of personification, a highlight of her books. Burton's animated machines, like Mary Anne the steam shovel, can lead to conversations about how we think about machines and why we compare them to humans (and sometimes animals) when we talk about them.




  • Houghton Mifflin: Mike Mulligan and His Steam Shovel

    This is the official site for Burton's story of the unstoppable Mike Mulligan and his steam shovel, Mary Anne. The site offers information about the book and the author, as well as several activities to use with the book.


  • Virginia Lee Burton, 1909-1968

    Houghton Mifflin offers this biography of Virginia Lee Burton. Written in part by Burton herself, the biography offers a glimpse at her childhood, the role her own children played in shaping her work, and more. Several images of Burton are also included.


  • Virginia Lee Burton Gallery

    University of Oregon Libraries presents a gallery of Burton's illustrations. Images from her books are included, as well as the original preliminary sketches for a number of her illustrations.



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Grades   3 – 5  |  Lesson Plan  |  Unit

Author Study: Improving Reading Comprehension Using Inference and Comparison

"Reading between the lines" can be as crucial to comprehension as understanding the words on the page. Through guided author studies, students experience the benefits and the limitations of inference.


Grades   3 – 5  |  Lesson Plan  |  Standard Lesson

Dancing Minds and Shouting Smiles: Teaching Personification Through Poetry

Students learn about personification by reading and discussing poems and then brainstorm nouns and verbs to create personification in their own poems.


Grades   3 – 5  |  Lesson Plan  |  Standard Lesson

Figurative Language Awards Ceremony

Students will be as happy as clams when they have the chance to nominate their favorite examples of similes, metaphors, and personification for a figurative language award.


Grades   9 – 12  |  Lesson Plan  |  Unit

The Children's Picture Book Project

In this lesson students evaluate published children's picture storybooks. Students then plan, write, illustrate, and publish their own children's picture books.