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.
“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.
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.
The new school year is just around the corner, and there are lots of wonderful nonfiction picture books perfect for a wide range of students from preschool through middle school. Picture books are a great tool for teachers (and parents) to use to start a discussion about anything from history to kindness to math. Yes, even math. Continue reading
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.
A 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)
David Lubar, beloved author of “The Weenie” series of short stories and “Hidden Talents,” hits it out of the park, actually out of the world and out of the galaxy, with “Emperor of the Universe: A Fable with Spaceships and Aliens.”
Nicholas V. Andrew, a seventh grader, only wants to be on his own when his parents are out of the country performing with their band, the Beegles, a take-off of the Beetles wherein his parents wear beagle masks while performing songs like “Yellow Snow Submarine.” He doesn’t want to have wild parties or play video games day and night, he just wants to be on his own. He ends up traveling throughout the universes, unintentionally causing the destruction of entire planets and also unintentionally becoming the Emperor of the Universe.
“Reaching for the Moon: The Autobiography of NASA Mathematician Katherine Johnson” is a very powerful book. Not only is the story of Katherine Johnson’s life inspiring, but the story she tells is filled with emotion and facts and history, and the way she combines them all into this middle grade book is superb.
In a fictional world reminiscent of ancient China, Elizabeth Lim creates “Spin the Dawn,” the story of Maia, daughter of a tailor who is as skilled as any tailor but who is barred from the profession because of her gender. Her father has lost his ambition since the death of Maia’s mother, and two of her brothers were killed in the Emperor’s war. Now, it’s just Maia supporting the family.
In “Storm Blown,” author Nick Courage writes about a fictional hurricane and two of the children whose lives are affected by that storm. He’s not writing about just any storm, though. This is a once-in-a-lifetime storm, a storm that is fickle and doesn’t behave as storm experts expect. Because the story is told from many perspectives, including that of a storm expert, readers get the benefit of learning about not only storms, but human behavior.
“P Is for Pterodactyl: The WORST Alphabet Book Ever (All the letters that misbehave and make words nearly impossible to pronounce)” is truly the BEST book ever! First of all, it’s brilliant — from the choice of alphabet words and for the text that explains what the words mean, and the words and text and illustrations combined make it really humorous, as well.
For example, “B is for Bdellium. We doubt that anyone knows what bdellium is, but it’s the only word dumb enough to begin with a silent B.
Animals and kids go together like hot summer days and ice cream or long sunlit days with reading lots and lots of books to kids before bedtime. And there’s nothing most kids like better than books about animals. Whether it’s a silly book or a book filled with adventure, kids love reading about animal antics.
Kids will LOVE “Pinky Got Out!” by Michael Portis, about a group of school children visiting the zoo when a flamingo gets out of the flamingo enclosure. The kids keep seeing Pinky, the flamingo, everywhere they go. Kids will love trying to spot Pinky on each page, and they’ll love what happens at the end. They will also learn a few facts about animals while searching each page for sightings of the pink escapee. You can tell them that the real-life Pinky is named Flamingo 492 and escaped from a Wichita, Kansas zoo and ended up in Texas on the coast where, fourteen years later, the bird is living happily. (Crown Books for Young Readers)
“Big Cat” by Emma Lazell is another humorous picture book, this one about a mix-up between a domestic cat and a large cat, in this case a tiger. The action begins on the page before the title page, which features newspapers with partial headings like “missing” and “Mystery sightings” and pictures of tigers. Grandma lost her glasses, and she and her granddaughter are looking for them in a yard filled with cats when the young narrator tells Grandma that she’s found a cat. Grandma goes through all the adorable names of their cats. “Is it Ruby? Gertrude? Twinklywhiskers?Hufflystink?” They take the stray cat to the neighbors to see if she belongs to them, but the neighbors all “were not cat people.” Kids will LOVE identifying all the pets the neighbors do have! Although their new cat does eat a lot of cat food, they love him, but when a couple looking for their missing son find Grandma’s glasses and return them, she realizes that the new cat is not a cat at all! Be assured that no humans are harmed in the reading of this book, and there is a delightful twist (of course) at the end. (Pavilion Books)
In “Nelly Takes New York: A Little Girl’s Adventure in the Big Apple,” authors Allison Pataki and Marya Myers feature an adorable duo as they search the New York determined to find the Big Apple. Nelly and her beagle, Bagel, stop for a bagel (of the edible variety) in West Village, then go to the farmers market at Union Square. Each time they mention their quest, they are sent to another place. New Yorkers will enjoy reading about all the sights to visit as will those planning a trip to NYC. For students reading the book, a great activity would be to have a map of New York City handy to have children plot Nelly and Bagel’s journey across the city. This book could be used as a travel brochure praising the different New York City tourist sites and the “friendly New Yorkers.” The illustrations by Kristi Valiant are worthy of mention. They are bright and colorful, but Valiant manages to make Nelly the center of attention, with her bright red jacket and curly black hair. (Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers)
In “The Peculiar Pig” by Joy Steuerwald, a dachshund puppy somehow ends up in the pig pen one morning. Mama Pig, like most mothers, loves all her piglets the same, even the new, strange-looking, brown one. But when the other piglets push the little brown “piglet” away, she patiently waits her turn. The babies get bigger and bigger, only Penny, the dachshund, gets longer and longer. Mama Pig just tells her, “It doesn’t matter, Penny. I love all my little piglets the same.” More differences emerge when Penny barks instead of oinking. And while proper pigs dig with their snouts, Penny uses her paws. In spite of her diminutive size, Penny can outrun her piggy brothers and sisters. When danger threatens, though, Penny saves the day, proving that peculiar might just be perfect. Kids will love the idea that while someone might be very different from those around them, they might just be able to save the day sometime. (Nancy Paulsen Books)
In a lovely take-off of Dr. Seuss, “One Shoe Two Shoes” by Caryl Hart is a simple but humorous book that kids will quickly memorize. They will love reciting the rhyming text along with the reader as the dog and the mice and the colorful shoes are enumerated and counted. While there are no cats (remember Thing One and Thing Two?), there is little mouse one and little mouse two. Like any self-respecting mouse, these also multiply. Between the shoes and the mice and the adorable dog, all illustrated by Edward Underwood in bright blocks of mostly primary colors, this one is definitely a treat for both the eye and the ear. (Bloomsbury Children’s Books)
Please note: This review is based on the final, hardcover books provided by the publishers for review purposes.