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.
“Little Taco Truck” by Tanya Valentine and Jorge Martin is beautifully written, brightly illustrated, and touching. Little Taco Truck loved serving up tacos to the hungry construction workers building new edifices on Union Street. The workers lined up to buy his tasty tacos. But one day another food truck, Miss Falafel, arrived. And while Little Taco Truck knew he should share the street, she parked in his spot! He worried that people might like her falafel more than his tacos. The next day was even worse because more food trucks showed up, and there was no room for Little Taco Truck. What is a food truck to do? Kids will love the expressions on the “faces” of the food trucks, and even more they will love the way Little Taco Truck figures out just what to do. Kids will learn about new foods like arepas, gumbo and tapas, but more importantly, they will learn about the benefits of sharing. (Schwartz & Wade)
“Linus The Little Yellow Pencil” by Scott Magoon is the story of an art show and the little yellow pencil whose eraser didn’t think they were good enough to be in the contest. In fact, Ernie, the eraser, was so worried that he complained about every single thing that Linus drew. He erased and erased and erased. When all the drawings were erased, there was nothing for Linus to enter in the contest, and he watched the others create art without worrying about not being good enough. Brush used ink and painted bright swirly lines. Pen drew intricate drawings, and “crayons created colorfully.” But just when all is about to be lost, Linus meets Smudge and hears some powerful wisdom. Kids will love the idea that when Linus and Ernie start working together, what they create is even more beautiful than what they could have created apart. Adults will enjoy the word play, as when Linus explains, “But Ernie — he’s my eraser — he really rubs me the wrong way.” Clever and touching in every line. (Disney-Hyperion)
“Nobody Hugs a Cactus” by Carter Goodrich is about Hank, the prickliest cactus in the whole world. He sits in a pot in a window in the desert and is happy alone. But when others pass by, they intrude on his solitude. They talk to him, and one even comments on his prickliness and says, “…somebody needs a hug. Too bad nobody hugs a cactus.” And sometimes, when you get an idea, it’s hard to let go of it. When Hank gets into trouble, he discovers a surprise friend. And in his efforts to reward his new friend, something even more surprising happens. Kids will love the idea of a cactus needing a hug, and they will like thinking of what the story is really saying. Do they know anyone who is like Hank? Someone who might be a little prickly on the outside, but needs a hug on the inside? Do the kids ever feel like Hank does? Some great discussions might come out of this lovely picture book. The illustrations deserve a mention, too. They are the colors of the desert in blues and ochre, and readers will feel the warmth of the terra cotta walls. (Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers)
Please note: These reviews are based on the final, hardcover books provided by the publishers for review purposes.