It’s back to school time, and for parents and teachers who want to inspire a love of reading, there are some fabulous new picture books for children of every interest and age.
“Simpson’s Sheep Just Want to Sleep” by Bruce Arant is a fine picture book about animals as well as animal and human behaviors. Farmer Simpson is up at dawn working the farm and caring for the animals. But he has a problem — the sheep won’t wake up. He does everything he can think of to wake them. He bangs pots and pans, blows horns and pops balloons. Nothing wakes the sleepy sheep. Finally, the clever farmer has an idea. He goes to the rescue pound and adopts a puppy. He tells the puppy that he will be barking and waking up the sheep. But the puppy has a different idea. Sometimes, a gentle touch works when force does not. The language is lovely, the rhyme and meter fabulous. Perfect for sharing thoughts and morals about friendship and behavior. And for promoting the adoption of animals. (Peter Pauper Press)
“The Fish Who Cried Wolf” by Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffler tells the perfectly charming story of Tiddler, who “wasn’t much to look at, with his plain gray scales. But Tiddler was a fish with a big imagination. He blew small bubbles but he told tall tales.” And so begins the story of Tiddler’s constant late arrival at school and the tall tales he invents to explain why he is late. But when Tiddler gets caught up in a fishing net and taken far away, the experience mirrors the tales he has told. He must find his way home, and the way he does is so very ingenious that kids (and adults) will be mesmerized. The text features lovely rhyme which makes this a book that calls for — screams for — being read aloud. Try it — you’ll love it. It will become a book that is read and reread. But does it encourage tall tales? Maybe. (Arthur A. Levine Books)
“Walter and the Wallet” by Billy Bloom and illustrated by Tanya Leonello is another picture book written using rhyme and meter that make it a pleasure to read aloud. The story is also sweet. Walter Whippingdale is having a terrible day. This nine-year-old boy has lost his favorite tie, finds out that the girl he likes adores another boy, gets mustard in his eye, and has a pimple on his nose! So when he finds a wallet on the street filled with cash, his eyes gleam, and he thinks about all the wonderful things he can buy with the money. As he considers all the lovely purchases he will make, he walks by a man and a police officer. The man is telling the officer that “It had my monthly wages — it was old…and it was brown.” Walter doesn’t hesitate long. He pulls out the wallet and does the right thing. When the reward is something unexpected, the story offers a wonderful twist at the end. (Eifrig Publishing)
“Black Belt Bunny” by Jacky Davis and illustrated by Jay Fleck is the story of a little ninja bunny who is not happy when it’s time to learn to make a salad. He’s very reluctant to try because it’s something he’s never done before. Like other picture books (“Here Comes the Easter Bunny”), this book’s narrator understands what Bunny is saying even though it’s not explicitly included in the text. The story is perfect for young readers, with a discussion about what could be real (being afraid of doing new things) and what is not real (karate chopping cabbage for a salad). It’s all about trying new things and being pleasantly surprised with the results. (Dial Books)
“Blue Sky Yellow Kite” by Janet A. Holmes and Jonathan Bentley is a story about greed, guilt and graciousness. Daisy is entranced by a fluttering yellow kite. But when William, who lives over the hill and is the owner of the kite, lets her fly it, Daisy absconds with the kite. Her guilt doesn’t allow her to fly it, but one day she can’t resist. She sees William watching, takes his kite home, and is consumed by guilt. She returns the kite the next day. William’s response to her thievery and her change of heart is truly the epitome of graciousness, friendship and forgiveness. It’s beautiful. The watercolor illustrations are also lovely, with a combination of bright colors and shapes, lots of blues and greens, and a black cat on every page. (Peter Pauper Press)