3 touching fiction picture books about overcoming obstacles and having a positive mindset

Kids learn a lot from books. And even the youngest child can learn about the messages that wonderful picture books contain, hidden in the bright illustrations and the often-simple text. Here are three picture books that do just that — they share important messages for young readers about not giving up, the power of positive thinking, and the importance of friendship.

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‘Things You Save in a Fire’ by Katherine Center begins with a spark and ends in an inferno

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“Things You Save in a Fire” by Katherine Center isn’t literally about things you would save in a fire. The main character, firefighter Cassie Hanwell, was born to be a firefighter. She’s a fascinating and complex character. When there’s an emergency, she gets calm and knows exactly what to do. She’s the one you want to be with when danger threatens. But in her own life, she’s helpless to get things on track.

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‘Señorita Mariposa’ by Ben Gundersheimer is a picture book that’s a bilingual “song” about the monarch’s migration and life cycle

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“Señorita Mariposa” by Ben Gundersheimer and illustrated by Marcos Almada Rivero is a beautiful, happy, rhyming picture book that tells the story of the monarch butterfly’s long journey from faraway places to Mexico where the monarchs gather each winter. Children get an idea of how long the journey is through the text and illustrations. “Over mountains capped with snow, to the deserts down below,” and elsewhere, the monarchs travel long distances on their journey.

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‘The Escape Room’ by Megan Goldin: nonstop action from the first page to the last

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Greed and arrogance are qualities that permeate the personalities of the characters in Megan Goldin’s “The Escape Room.” The first chapter offers the reader clues that the story will not end well for some of those characters, but just how that comes about is part of the mystery and the thrill. Four hedge fund traders at the competitive firm of Stanhope and Sons are commanded to appear for a team-building exercise. Vincent, Jules, Sylvie, and Sam all have better things to be doing, but they are all extremely competitive, and they all want to get the best bonus possible, so they all show up to the not-quite-completed office building and enter the elevator.

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‘Keeping Lucy’ by T. Greenwood is an emotional story of a mother who will take on the world to protect her daughter

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Ginny Richardson and her successful lawyer husband have one perfect child, Peyton. When Lucy, her second baby, is born with Down syndrome, her wealthy in-laws whisk the newborn to a “school” where she will live and be cared for. Ginny is told she was “enrolled” in the school, and by the time she was coherent after sedative injection after sedative injection, it was too late. Everyone except Ginny’s mother and best friend are told the baby died.

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8 Picture books about feelings – great for teachers, parents, social workers, and anyone who deals with children

Sometimes it’s difficult for young children to talk about their feelings. Sometimes, reading a book about feelings can open the door for children to express that they feel the same way. Sometimes, by reading a book, children might realize that they are not alone in their feelings. This collection of new releases is perfect for those who want to help children deal with uncomfortable feelings.

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9 Perfect picture books for going back to school

It’s that time of year. Kids and parents are doing back-to-school shopping and one thing that should definitely be on the list are books to get kids in that back-to-school mood. There are many picture books that are perfect for just that purpose, and they will motivate and excite readers to begin learning and imagining and creating.

pigeonA book that legions have been anxiously awaiting (at least my 1st grade students who begged me to bring it to school and read it to them) is the ever-popular pigeon in “The Pigeon HAS to Go to School!” by the prolific and popular Mo Willems. Pigeon isn’t convinced that he wants to go to school, but by the end of the book, he’s all in. Kids will enjoy hearing about how Pigeon’s argument about not going to school backfires. The end papers are worthy of note, as usual, with empty school desks and chairs at the start of the book while on the end papers, they are populated with pigeon’s new classmates. Kids will definitely want to read this one over and over and over again. And it’s perfect for kids who aren’t quite sure they are ready for school, or who might be — dare I say it — scared to go. They will certainly understand Pigeon’s feelings. Definitely put this title on your back-to-school shopping list! (Hyperion Books for Children)

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‘The Two Lila Bennetts’ by Liz Fenton and Lisa Steinke is clever and frightening

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As someone who went through law school and gave criminal law a thought, my feelings after reading “The Two Lila Bennetts” is that authors Liz Fenton and Lisa Steinke got it all right. I’ll never forget working for a criminal law firm while going to law school at night. A lawyer once said to me, “When you practice criminal law, you become as bad as the criminals.”

And that’s the premise of “The Two Lila Bennetts.” The protagonist, Lila Bennett, is a top criminal defense lawyer. Are some of her clients guilty? Assuredly. Does she get them off anyway? Absolutely. At least most of them.

In fact, we come to realize that Lila herself is no angel. Boy, has she made some bad choices in her life. Lying, cheating, sleeping with someone to get an advantage. We are talking really poor choices. And now Lila is paying for those poor choices.

Someone is after Lila. And when the story diverges into two paths, both Lilas suffer, although in different ways. The writing is extremely clever, and we are led down a path where we believe one Lila is going to be fine and the other, maybe not. But the Lilas in both stories are equally brilliant and determined to right past wrongs. Does Lila become a new person? Can we really change who we are? What does it take to cause that change?

Another interesting aspect of the novel is that we don’t really like Lila much at the beginning. She’s simply not a very likable person. But as we see her struggle and the thoughtful process of Lila’s rethinking her life and her decisions, including her marriage, we come to respect her and root for her.

Looking for a lovely summer read? Trying to pick a book that will engender great discussion for a book club? Picking a gift for a friend who loves to read? “The Two Lila Bennetts” won’t disappoint! It’s sure to be a hit with everyone.

Please note: This review is based on the advance reader’s copy provided by Lake Union Publishing, the publisher, for review purposes.