Six picture books with animals and messages that are sweet and engaging

Kids love animals, and when picture books feature animals to get across a message, or just to entertain, kids are sure to enjoy them. Here are several picture books that will include some that are destined to become favorites.

fly“Fly!” by Mark Teague is a picture book that proves the adage that a picture is worth a thousand words. There are no words in this beautifully illustrated book although there are many exclamation marks! The book is silly, and children will love the humor. Baby bird doesn’t want to leave the nest, but mother bird demands he come out of the nest to get his worm. When there are unexpected consequences to baby bird’s tantrum, the contrast between what baby bird thinks should happen and what mama bird thinks should happen is hysterical. Told in a series of speech balloons that are filled with images instead of words, readers will need to provide their own words to make sense of the story. This book is perfect for engaging children in speaking and explaining, and it would be a fabulous choice for second language learners to use for practice in speaking. It’s also just a really enjoyable and entertaining book for everyone. (Beach Lane Books)

“Bad Dog” by Mike Boldt is adorable. My students loved it! Boldt illustrated “I Don’t Want to Be a Frog” and “Thunder Trucks” among others.  This book is clever, from the front bad dogendpapers with “my birthday list” featuring first and only: a dog. The title page shows, under the title, a polka dot gift box with a red bow, a tag with the author’s name, and a paw extending from the box. The young girl is thrilled with her birthday present. It’s a pet dog! It’s not really a pet dog, and kids will immediately catch on to that. But in a lovely example of a picture book where the reader knows more than the main character, we know that it’s really a cat. Kids will laugh as she tries to teach her “dog” to come, sit, and go for walks. But Rocky is a bad dog; she doesn’t enjoy any of those things. There’s a sweet twist at the end, but what really makes this book work wonderfully well are the illustrations. The gap-toothed girl and the calico cat with mostly simple backgrounds really create scenes that illustrate the cat-astrophe that having a cat sometimes brings. Sleeping on laundry, claws on furniture, potty accidents in the potted plants…Rocky does it all! Whether your child has a cat or a dog or neither, this is a winner. (Doubleday)

blue spot“Blue Spot” by Griselda Sastrawinata-Lemay is part of the Walt Disney Animation Studios Artist Showcase in which artists from Disney are featured. The story is sweet. It’s about Daisy, a kitten, who gets a blue spot on her white dress. Her mother asks how she got the blue spot, and Daisy explains how her whole day was filled with blue from her crayon to the blue monster and a huge blue cake. It even rained blueberries. Parents and teachers who know how some children can make a simple story last and last and last will chuckle at this long-winded tale. In the Author’s Note, Sastrawinata-Lemay writes (in white text on blobs of blue ink) that she grew up in Indonesia dreaming of one day creating illustrations for Disney. She says that even though her English wasn’t good after she moved to the United States, “Through drawing and painting, I was able to communicate. And that was when I realized that expressing my self through art would become a huge part of my life.” She also loves cats. Young aspiring artists, or just those who love the color blue or drawing with crayons, will love this story. Daisy and her tales are fabulous. (Disney Press)

“Max and Marla Are Flying Together” by Alexandra Boiger is about a boy and his owl, max and marla flyingbest friends. But when Max decides it’s a perfect day to build a kite and fly it high in the sky, Marla is not as enthusiastic. “Flying is not her favorite thing, and besides, it’s rather cozy inside.” When the kite is finished, Marla doesn’t want to fly. She’s afraid to fly. The next day, leaves cover the ground. Max rakes the leaves, trying to find his missing kite. But accidentally, Marla hides on top of it, and when the wind picks up both her and the kite, Marla finds her wings. Children will love to discuss why Max doesn’t make fun of Marla for being afraid to fly, and a good discussion can be led to discuss how to overcome fears and what to do if a friend or classmate expresses a fear. (Philomel Books)

mary had a little lab“Mary Had a Little Lab” by Sue Fliess and illustrated by Petros Bouloubasis is not about a Labrador retriever, but it does have a sheep. Mary is a dedicated scientist. “Mary had a little lab. She tested and created. While other kids were at the park, she built and calculated.” But when Mary realizes that she’s lonely, she decides she needs a pet. She gets some sheep wool, just a tiny tuft, and creates her own woolly sheep. Her sheep is a marvel, assisting her in her lab and even buffing her floors. And, yes, he follows her to school one day and all the other students want a sheep of their own. What Mary does, how she miscalculates, and what they do to solve the problem is clever. Also quite clever is the way Fliess incorporates just the right amount of the original nursery rhyme in the rhyming text. Fun to read aloud, and fun to look at. Kids will enjoy this fractured nursery rhyme. (Albert Whitman Books)

“Duck & Penguin are NOT Friends” by Julia Woolf is an ingenious story in which humans duck and penguinBetty and Maud are best friends, but their stuffed animals, Duck and Penguin, are most definitely not friends, and watching the parallel play/fighting will be a great kick-off for conversations about what happens when your friends don’t like each other and even comments about plays on words. When Betty and Maud are painting their beloved pets, “Duck and Penguin are painting each other.” But not in quite the same manner as Betty and Maud. But when Betty and Maud put Duck and Penguin through a bath and other indignities, will Duck and Penguin have the last say? Kids will enjoy the twist at the end. (Peachtree)

Please note: This review is based on the final, hardcover books provided by the publishers for review purposes.

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