Three feel-good picture books

One of the reasons to read picture books is to teach children about emotions and feelings. These three picture books are wonderful stories that will help start conversations about feelings and children’s feelings of self-worth. One of the books is about how pleasant it is to read with another person — or cat, as the case many be — so it’s not a solitary activity. The illustrations are very different in each book, but each interesting and well-suited for the stories.

“The Tree in Me” by Corinna Luyken features Luyken’s trademark brilliant colors that are visually stunning with bright vivid, almost neon pinks and yellows and umber shades. In fact, the color spectrum in the illustrations are all bright and eye-catching and riveting. The text is spare and metaphorical. Luyken compares a tree with a person, the sunny part and the shade. We both, people and trees, love wind and rain and dirt and sky. Like trees, we can be strong yet flexible, and we have roots that can go deep. This sweet book will be appreciated on both the visual level, and for the ability to use the text to discuss metaphor and how we relate to nature. How are we like trees? Are we like other natural life forms? How did the author use color? Are the illustrations realistic? How do the illustrations work with the text to complete the meaning? Kids will want to read it over and over as a treat for the senses.(Dial Books for Young Readers)

“Meesha Makes Friends” by Tom Percival is about a shy girl, Meesha, who has a hard time making friends. It’s part of the “Big Bright Feelings” series aimed at helping children understand and accept other children who might be different in behavior or ability to interact with others. Meesha is talented at many things. She can draw and create things, make pictures from numbers, and assign colors to numbers. But she doesn’t quite understand the games other kids play, and while they all seem to interact effortlessly, she doesn’t know how. When she does meet someone who is interested in making things, too, Meesha finds that maybe having a friend isn’t that hard. There’s a lovely letter to the reader from the author at the end about making friends and how to help someone who might find that a difficult task. It’s very important for children to learn at a young age that not everyone is born social; some of us need a bit of help. Reading books like this one are a great way to teach empathy to young children. (Bloomsbury Children’s Books)

“Rectangle Time” is a lovely story by Pamela Paul with illustrations by Becky Cameron (both of whom number cats in their households) about a cat whose musings about reading time are greatly entertaining — especially to those of us who also have cats in our households who like to sit on our books, or newspapers, or computers. The sweet calico cat who stars in this story loves “Rectangle Time” because he knows that he fits right in. While the dad reads to his son, each has one hand free to pet the cat. We get to see how the reading time progresses as the boy grows older and graduates from “The Snowy Day” to “Go Dog Go,” which the boy starts reading with his father. Then we see the boy holding the rectangle by himself, and it’s getting trickier for the cat to insert himself for the delicious petting he surely deserves. As the rectangle gets smaller, the gyrations change. The takeaway? We love our cats in spite of their ability to stop us from doing what we need to do! How many of us won’t move if there’s a cat on our lap? “I can’t move, there’s a cat on my lap,” is a common refrain in my household! Just like, well, almost like “Rectangle Time.” (Philomel Books)

All these books would be fabulous choices for a school library, home bookshelf, or in a classroom.

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