The Classroom Bookshelf
Inside The Classroom Bookshelf

2012 Caldecott Medal Winner: A Ball for Daisy

A Ball for Daisy
Written and Illustrated by Chris Raschka
Published by Schwartz and Wade in 2011
ISBN. 978-0-375-85861-1
All Ages
Joy and despair. Something lost and something regained…. these universal themes receive fresh attention in Chris Raschka’s deceptively simple wordless book, A Ball for Daisy. Readers will instantly fall in love with Daisy, small white dog, and will share her elation at the gift of a new ball from her owner, a young girl. Tail a-wagging, Daisy has a thorough romp with her toy before cuddling up with the bright red ball for a rest on her vividly green striped couch. Later, the girl and Daisy take an outing to the park for a game of fetch. Readers catch their breath when the ball lands behind a fence, but the real crisis comes after the retrieval of the ball. A larger, brown dog snatches Daisy’s ball and runs with it. But, oh,no! – the ball pops. Daisy droops home for a lonely nap on her ball-less couch, practically disappearing into its emptiness, despite the girl’s attempts to comfort her. But, don’t worry. Another outing means anpther encounter and the errant dog’s owner is carrying a blue ball, a replacement gift for Daisy. Raschaka’s characteristic simple, yet bold brush strokes clearly convey action and emotion in this heart warming tale. Changes in color reflect Daisy’s mood, while consistent color motifs create cohesiveness throughout the book. Variation from single page images, to double page spreads, to multiple images per page keep the plot moving forward and emphasize emotional and pivotal moments. This deeply satisfying picture book is a clear expression of Raschka’s artistic genius. Red ball loved and lost – blue ball and friendship gained and all is well with the world.
Teaching Invitations
Grades K – 6
  • Further Adventures of Daisy. Readers of A Ball for Daisy will come away with a strong sense of Daisy’s personality. Invite your students to image and compose further adventures for Daisy, writing either wordless stories or stories with text. If you are carrying out this activity with intermediate grade students, you may wish to have your students share the stories they have composed (along with A Ball for Daisy) with primary grade students in your district.
  • Dogs in Action / Helping Dogs. Invite your students to do some first hand research into dog behaviors. Equip your students with digital cameras or tablets with built in cameras and find an opportunity either at home or as part of a school field trip for them to observe dogs first hand. Students should make written notes about what they observe about dog behavior and should take snapshots of the dogs in action. Compile the students’ research, asking them to make connections and comparisons across their observations. Extend the project by consulting informational texts about dogs. You may also want to investigate the many helping roles that dogs play such as guide dogs, therapy dogs, search and rescue dogs. It would be wonderful to arrange a classroom visit from a helping dog with an opportunity for students to interview the dog’s owner.
  • Author Study. Chris Raschka has written and illustrated a wide range of titles in addition to illustrating many books written by other authors. Gather together a collection of Raschka’s works to explore with your students. As you read through the titles together and in small groups, themes in Raschka’s writing will begin to emerge. Guide your students to categorize the books into different grouping – consider the age group for which the story appears to be written, the theme (themes of music, friendship, love, and community will readily stand out), and the writing style. Ask the students to study and describe Raschka’s artistic style. They will likely notice Raschka’s genius at conveying emotion and action with simple bold lines. Just how does he say so much with so little detail (study Yo, Yes! as another brilliant example). Using some of the resources below, explore Raschka’s biography and invite students to think about how his life experiences may influence his work as an author illustrator. Be sure to provide your students with paint and an opportunity to try to imitate Raschka’s artistic techniques.
Grades 2- 8
  • Storytelling in Pictures/ A Genre Study of Wordless Books. Invite your students to study the techniques that authors use for storytelling when their medium is pictures. You may find Scott McCloud’s Making Comics a useful guide to examining the choices authors make when telling a story visually. The artist/ author makes decisions about which moments to feature, how to frame and focus the image (think camera lens), how to arrange the images to convey the flow of the story, and what medium and artistic style best match the content of the story. Gather a collection of wordless books to examine the visual storytelling techniques of other artists / authors. A listing of wordless books is included below. A Ball for Daisy joins the ranks of several other wordless picture books that have been honored with the Caldecott award. Be sure to include these in your wordless books genre study.
  • Principles of Illustration. What makes a picture work? After reading Molly Bang’s book Picture This (see below), explore some of the principles of illustration with your class. As a class, model the application of these principles by dissecting the illustrations in A Ball for Daisy. Ideally, you would examine the illustrations using a document camera to project the images. How did Raschka create emotional impact through the use of color, line, page breaks, and perspective? Next, break students up into four groups; have two groups apply Bang’s principles to Caldecott Honor book Me… Jane (see our blog entry at ), a nonfiction picture book biography and Caldecott Honor book Blackout, a fictional picture book. How do the other illustrators also use some of Bang’s techniques, but to achieve illustrations with a very different mood and tone?
  • Mock Caldecott. Gather 15-20 picture books published in 2011, culling titles from some of the best book lists (see ) and the 2011 picture book entries in this blog! Review the Caldecott Medal criteria available on the ALA webpage (see below) and post it in your room. Next, spend a week having your students reading the picture books in small groups, applying the criteria, and taking notes. Have each small group come to consensus on their top five books to nominate. Use their choices to narrow the field of contenders. Next, ask each group to choose two favorites from the remaining titles; the group should prepare a clearly articulated rationale for why the illustrations are worthy of being recognized with the Caldecott Medal. After hearing from each group, the class should vote for a winner.
  • Righting a Wrong. The owner of the dog who popped Daisy’s ball makes amends by getting a new blue ball for Daisy. Prepare a list of scenarios that involve harm to a person or animal (to your own comfort level for class discussion, of course). Either in small groups, or over time in large groups, perhaps as part of your circle or morning meeting time, discuss the scenarios and ask students to brainstorm ways to make amends or to put the situations to right. As an extension you could have students either craft fictional stories using the scenarios (wordless or with text) or you could co-create a class big book that features each scenario on a page or double page spread.
  • Character Study of Dogs in Literature. Gather together a collection of fictional picture books that feature dog protagonists. Select a range of titles that include dogs acting as dogs might and dogs acting as humans. Ask your students to analyze the character of the dogs in each title, identifying examples of authentic dog behavior vs. imagined dog-like behavior, vs. clearly human-like behavior, perhaps physically placing the books in a continuum from dog-like to human-like. Introduce your students to the concept of anthropomorphism (ascribing human characteristics to animals) and the idea that this may be an effective technique in fictional writing, but can be problematic in informational writing.
Critical Literacy
Grades 4 – 8
  • Animal Emotions. There’s no question about the emotions that Daisy experiences in the story. She ranges from exuberant joy to deep despondency. Invite your students to investigate what science tells us about animal emotions. Do scientists believe that animals experience the array of emotions that humans do? What techniques have they used to investigate animal emotions? Does science build on, confirm, or contradict the beliefs of pet owners who report first hand experiences with the emotions of their pets? For older students, you might take this further, investigating the implications of animal emotions for human interaction with animals, specifically with issues related to animal rights (animal testing, arranged animal fighting, animal captivity, and others….). What are the issues and how have people stated their position on these issues?
  • Dogs as Pets? The concept of keeping a dog as a pet is familiar to many children who live in the United States. However, in other cultures, dogs would not be invited into the house. In Anna Hibiscus, Have Fun (see our blog entry at ), Anna, who lives in Africa, visits her grandmother in Canada and is amazed her grandmother treats her dog like a family member . In her experience, “Dogs live outside and eat rubbish.” Invite your students to investigate cultural perceptions of dog ownership.
Further Explorations
Online Resources
ALA: Caldecott Medal Page
NPR Interview with Chris Raschka
Raschka on You Tube for Once Upon A Book
Artist Profile: Chris Raschka
Random House Teacher’s Guide for A Ball for Daisy
Therapy Dogs International
Assistance Dogs of America
National Association for Search and Rescue: Canine Search and Rescue
Animal Planet: Do Animals Have Emotions
National Geographic: Animal Minds
Jeffrey Maason on Animal Emotions
Bang, M. (2000). Picture this: How pictures work. New York: SeaStar Books.
  • A highly effective presentation of the elements of design and their role in storytelling.
Day, A. (1985). Good dog, Carl. New York: Simon and Schuster.
  • Carl, a lovable Rottweiler turned babysitter, makes mischief with the baby, but all is set to right before mother returns home in this practically wordless picture book.
Ehlert, L. (2011). Rrralph! New York: Beach Lane Books.
  • Meet Ralph, a lovable black and white canine who talks to his owner. Clever word play will have readers of this picture book laughing out loud.
Ehlert, L. (2007). Wag a tail. New York: Harcourt.
  • A group of fellow graduates from the Bow Wow obedience school meet at a farmer’s market and then take a romp in the park in this picture book featuring Ehlert’s cheerful collage illustrations.
Feiffer, J. (1999). Bark, George. New York: HarperCollins.
  • George’s mother is concerned because her puppy doesn’t know how to bark; when he makes all kinds of other sounds, she takes him to see the vet.
George, K.O. (1999). Little dog poems. Ill. by J. Otani. New York: Clarion Books.
  • In a series of short poems, a young girl describes a day with her lively Little Dog.
Lowrey, J.S. (1942). The poky little puppy. Ill. by G. Tenngren. New York: Random House.
  • This classic Little Golden Book features a little puppy who ventures out on his own.
Maason, J.M. (2011). Dogs make us human: A global family album. Photos by A. Wolfe. New York; Bloomsbury USA
  • A collection of photographs of people and their dogs is accompanied by a discussion of the bonds between humans and dogs. The author has studied animal emotions.
MacLachlan, P. & Charest, E.M. (2006). Once I ate a pie. Ill. by K. Schneider. New York; Joanna Cotler Books.
  • A collection of fourteen poems starring fourteen different dogs each with a distinctive personality.
McCloud, S. (2006). Making comics: Storytelling secrets of comic, manga, and graphic novels. New York: Harper.
  • This informative guide focuses on both the words and pictures of these writing forms and provides a useful overview of visual storytelling techniques.
Rathmann, P. (1995). Officer Buckle and Gloria. New York: Putnam.
  • This hilarious Caldecott-winning picture book features a police officer who makes safety speeches at local schools along with his dramatically-inclined sidekick, a police K-9.
Reiser, L. (2006). Hardworking puppies. New York: Harcourt.
  • Ten puppies of different breeds each find jobs in different working dog helping roles.
Seymour, S. (2009). Dogs. New York: HarperCollins.
  • A photo-essay overview of dogs and their behaviors
Teague, M. (2002). Dear Mrs. Larue: Letters from obedience school. New York: Scholastic.
  • Feb up with the behavior of her dog, Ike, Mrs. Larue sends him to obedience school. In a series of hilarious letters, Ike complains about his plight.
Wordless Books
Baker, J. (2010). Mirror. Cambridge, MA: Candlewick Press.
Baker, J. (2004). Home. New York: Greenwillow.
  • A baby grows to adulthood as her urban neighborhood experiences renewal in this wordless book, which depicts change over time.
Baker, J. (1991). Window. New York: Greenwillow.
  • In this wordless book, a young boy grows from infancy to adulthood as the Australian bush outside his window develops into a crowded city.
Bang, M. (1980). The grey lady and the strawberry snatcher. New York: Simon & Schuster.
  • In this Caldecott Honor winning wordless picture book, the author makes brilliant use of negative space to depict the grey lady’s escape from the rascal who wants to steal her strawberries.
Lehman, B. (2011). The secret box. Boston: Houghton Mifflin.
Lehman, B. (2006). Museum trip. Boston: Houghton Mifflin.
  • On a class trip to an art museum a young boy finds himself navigating the mazes featured in a special exhibit.
Lehman, B. (2007). Rainstorm. Boston: Houghton Mifflin.
  • On a rainy day, a young boy finds a key and a chest in his home; climbing inside he finds a ladder that leads to a sunny island and playmates.
Lehman, B. (2004). The red book. Boston: Houghton Mifflin.
  • In this Caldecott Honor book, a young girl finds a red book in a snow bank and discovers that it has the power to connect her to a boy on a tropical island who is reading a red book…
Lehman, B. (2008). Train stop. Boston: Houghton Mifflin.
  • While traveling on a subway with her parents, a young girl makes an unexpected stop to rescue a tiny pilot stuck in tree in a beautiful land inhabited by miniature people.
Newgarden, M. & Cash, M.M. (2007). Bow-wow bugs a bug. New York: Harcourt.
  • When a small black bug invades his home, Bow-wow chases him out the dog door and around the block, with some extraordinary encounters along the way.
Pinkney, J. (2009). The lion and the mouse. New York: Little Brown.
  • This Caldecott Honor book uses images to tell the classic Aesop’s fable of the lion and the mouse.
Rogers, G. (2004). The boy, the bear, the baron, the bard. New Milford, CT: Roaring Brook Press.
  • In this time travel adventure, a young boy chases after his soccer ball into an old theater and finds himself in the middle of one of Shakespeare’s productions.
Wiesner, D. (2006). Flotsam. New York: Clarion.
  • In this Caldecott-winning title, in which a boy finds a camera on the beach and develops the pictures to follow the fantastical underwater journey of the camera.
Additional wordless titles by David Wiesner can be found at
Erika Thulin Dawes About Erika Thulin Dawes

Erika is a professor of language and literacy at Lesley University. A former classroom teacher, reading specialist, and literacy supervisor, she now teaches courses in children’s literature, early literacy, and literacy methods. Erika is the co-author of Learning to Write with Purpose, Teaching with Text Sets, and Teaching to Complexity.


  1. I am not sure I understood how this book applies to each of the grades mentioned. I lost my 18 year old dog this week who died sleeping Monday afternoon. I was so sad and looking at dog stories online. I found your article. Maybe I will take a trek to Barnes and Noble and see if they have this book. Thanks for the wonderful explanation. I am a little sad and you brought some light into my day.