Looking for a picture book with a wonderful message that kids will love?
There are many different kinds of picture books. Some are bedtime stories, some are sweet or silly, and some have wonderful messages to share for readers of all ages. These nine books are picture books that would be appropriate for a wide range of ages, and they all have lovely themes to discuss with kids.
“Say Something!” by Peter H. Reynolds is a thoughtful but simple book, this one about the importance of each person’s voice. It’s dedicated to “Emma González and all people who are brave enough to say something — and move the world to a better place — inspiring others to do the same.” Reynolds makes the point that what you say doesn’t need to be perfect, it just needs to come from the heart. And it doesn’t even need to be words, it can be a painting, poetry, a flower garden, standing up for someone, a science hypothesis, dressing up, and sharing your feelings — even if they are angry feelings — by helping others understand how you feel. It’s an important book and one that should be in every classroom, read aloud to students by teachers and to children by parents. Important discussions will result from reading this book with others. Important discussions that might just help change the world. (Orchard Books)
Oh, my, will adult readers LOVE reading “Sweety” by Andrea Zuill to their kids. Kids will love the fabulous illustrations, the super-ugly naked mole rats and the sweet story, and adults will enjoy the acerbic humor. The book begins, “Sweety was awkward. Even for a naked mole rat.*” The asterisk explains that while mole rats may be born without fur, they have plenty of clothes. Grandma coos that Sweety is her little square peg. Adult humor, for sure. Poor Sweety, she may not understand what a square peg is, but she knows she doesn’t fit in. But with a sweet relative and loving family, Sweety learns to appreciate being herself. And the ending is just perfect! There’s always someone out there who can be your friend. Kids will really like this book! Guaranteed. (Schwartz & Wade Books)
“The New Neighbors” by Sarah McIntyre is a book that young readers will adore and will make older readers think. It’s about the reactions in an apartment building when the animals find out that rats have moved in. The sequence and the text are delightful as the bunnies, on the top floor, are thrilled to hear that their new neighbors are rats. As the bunnies descend, picking up friends from their apartments along the way, the reactions gets more and more dire, until finally the group is convinced that the rats will fill the apartment building with rat poop and they will all be buried alive. However, when they end up at the rats’ front door, what they find is something quite different than what they expected. It’s a perfect tool for opening discussions about preconceptions and prejudices. I love to share books like these with children from third grade through fifth grade to see where the ensuing discussion goes — it’s always somewhere good. (Penguin Workshop)
Kids love picture books that have the characters talking directly to the readers. They notice and enjoy interacting with such books. In “Dragons Eat Noodles on Tuesdays” by Jon Stahl and illustrated by Tadgh Bentley, the characters do just that. At the beginning, there is a blue creature who tells a story — but it’s not much of a story. When his friend appears to try to help, that story is only marginally better. Blue guy really wants a hungry dragon in the story. So between the two of them, they build a really great story with a lovely hero princess who uses her smarts to save the day. But here’s where things get complicated, and where kids will really start smiling about the twist — because while the characters in the story tell a story, they then become the story. So there’s a story within the story as well as a fabulous ending. There is a LOT to discuss with this book regarding the humor, the (spoiler alert) girl who saves the knight, and the storytellers who then become characters in their own story. And of course, the kids will think of other great points to make about this extraordinarily clever book. (Scholastic Press)
“Rosie and Rasmus” is the sweet, tender story of two lonely people who become friends. Serena Geddes writes and illustrates this story using simple text and lovely pastel illustrations to tell the story of Rosie, a girl who feels invisible, who meets Rasmus, a lonely dragon who can’t fly. They become friends, and Rosie is determined to help her friend fly. The illustrations cleverly tell part of the story that the text doesn’t, and after reading the story aloud, it’s almost necessary to go back and read it again to give readers the chance to see what they missed. Rasmus’ wings have been growing throughout the story, but unless you’ve been looking for that detail, it’s easy to miss. The ending is also lovely. Both Rosie and Rasmus have benefited from their friendship, even though they must go their own ways. This story can help children see the power of friendship and kindness, and it also will teach them to carefully examine illustrations for clues about what is happening in the story. (Aladdin)
“Dollop and Mrs. Fabulous” by Jennifer Sattler is the extremely ingenious story of two bunny sisters who seem to have absolutely nothing in common. Dollop is a monster-loving, ninja-skilled warrior, and her sister, Lili, is a princess-loving, doll-playing, tea party-giving girly-girl. Dollop is bored and wants to join the tea party. But Lili has many rules, and ninjas are not allowed. So they both transform themselves and bring friends. Lili becomes Mrs. Fabulous, and Dollop becomes … herself, with goggles and a red cape. They each bring friends, a unicorn and a golden-haired doll, and a monster and robot (guess which ones belong to whom). But when problems arise at the table, it takes a ninja warrior to save the day. Children will really like the fabulous ending, and it’s a wonderful opportunity to lead a discussion on different personalities and the importance of finding activities in which everyone can participate. (Alfred A. Knopf Books for Young Readers)
“Not Your Nest” by Gideon Sterer is both humorous and tender, about a bird who is just finishing her nest when a larger bird decides it’s just right and takes it over. The small yellow bird goes to build another, and another animal moves in. This goes on and on, until the tree is filled with small and huge animals who are lying in nests. Interestingly, the animals are all native to Africa, including the weaver bird, the hoopoe, the jackal, the zebra, the giraffe, the warthog, the crocodile, the gorilla, the meerkats, the elephant, and even the Cape buffalo who saves the day. The ending is perfect, sharing a message of forgiveness and sharing. It’s a great book for opening a talk on feelings and empathy. How did the yellow bird feel when this was happening? Why did the bird build her own nest at the end? But it’s also just silly, too, and kids who are too young for the discussion about empathy will giggle at the illustrations featuring huge animals in a tree. (Dial)
“Duck & Goose: A Gift for Goose” by Tad Hills is a sweet story of friendship and gift-giving. It starts, “Duck has a gift for Goose.” And in simple text that will allow beginning readers to read along, Hills tells the story of Duck creating the perfect box to hold Goose’s gift. The reader sees him prepare the box by painting it, making a card, and putting a ribbon on it. But there is a misunderstanding as to what the actual gift really is, and readers will chuckle at the surprise twist at the end. Because of its simplicity and sweet feeling, this will become a much-read and much-loved story. (Schwartz & Wade Books)
Last but certainly not least is “The Little Green Girl” by Lisa Anchin, a book with a plant as a main character. It’s a testament to Anchin’s artistic ability that she makes the Little Green Girl look so much like a little girl. Although the Green Girl has no face, Anchin creates feeling and emotion through the plant’s body language, hand placement, “arm” movement, and even head tilts. The reader understands just how the Little Green Girl is feeling throughout the story. Mr. Aster is a man who loves caring for his garden. When Little Green Girl arrives as an unusual seed, he plants her and marvels at what she becomes. He talks to Little Green Girl and tells her about exotic places, and she yearns to visit those places and see the world. But Little Green Girl is firmly rooted in the soil, and there’s no way for her to leave. Or is there? What happens next will touch both young and older readers as Mr. Aster and Little Green Girl adventure out and learn wonderful lessons. Back in the classroom or home, kids will love talking about the messages in this richly illustrated book: there may be no place like home, but there are also other wonderful places and people to visit and to learn about in person. We can learn much about the world from the most unexpected sources. Sacrificing some self-satisfaction for the happiness of others can sometimes lead to wonderful surprises for oneself. But most of all? Kids will love the happy, and surprising, ending. (Dial)
Please note: This review is based on the final, hardcover books provided by the publishers, for review purposes.