7 Fabulous Choices in Children’s Picture Books for Black History Month

With the increase in diversity in children’s books, there is a plethora of wonderful books for children of all ages that are perfect picks for February and the celebration of Black History.

“Dream Big Dreams: Photographs from Barack Obama’s Inspiring and Historic dreambigdreamsPresidency” by Pete Souza, the former chief official White House photographer, is a beautiful book filled with touching and insightful images of a president who could be solemn when the occasion called for it, caring when compassion was needed, loving with his family, and fun when children were involved. The images show a man who wasn’t afraid to be real with people and to show them that he cared. The photographs show a man who radiates confidence and charm. It’s a really lovely book. (Little, Brown and Company Books for Young Readers)

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Ten Perfectly Poignant Picture Books for Valentine’s Day

It’s not too late to get the perfect Valentine’s Day present for your favorite picture book reader. Here are ten picture-perfect choices.

Dog lovers who are book lovers know that almost no one writes nonfiction dog books IMG_3995like Dorothy Hinshaw Patent, author of “Made for Each Other: Why Dogs and People Are Perfect Partners.” This small picture book is aimed at older picture book readers, although younger readers will love the beautiful photographs by William Muñoz. The book is filled with all the nonfiction features teachers love to teach, like Contents (Part One: A Perfect Partnership; Part Two: The Science of Love; and Part Three: Sharing Our Lives), Resources for Young Readers (books, websites and videos with more information), Source Notes and Additional Sources (a bibliography of resources used for the information in the book), and an Index. Within the book’s pages is information ranging from how dogs differ from wolves and how they may have parted ways in the past to how dogs help us now by being our best friends, guiding us, protecting us, providing us with therapy, and just loving us. It’s a beautiful, completely true love story. (Crown Books for Young Readers)

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Three Lovely Children’s Picture Books Celebrate Animals

 

Three wonderful picture books — each in its own way celebrating nature, the joys of a pet, and the companionship of animals.

“Please Please the Bees” by Gerald Kelley is the story of Benedict the bear. He loves honey and gets three jars of honey delivered to his lovely home each morning by bees. He eats his toast with honey, drinks his tea with extra honey, practices his violin, bakes his honey cake, knits, runs errands, and drinks one last cup of honey tea before bed. It’s a very fulfilling life until one morning there is no honey. The bees are on strike, and Benedict learns that sometimes, nature — and bees — need a hand. Clever illustrations provide hints of what is to come, with Benedict living in a house where the plants have all died.  Benedict and the young readers of this story learn about what bees need to produce honey, and all live happily ever after. The story is charming, humorous, and important. The illustrations are lovely in watercolor and other media, and the fact that the texture of the watercolor paper is used for much of the white space keeps the illustrations rich and engaging.

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6 Fabulous Children’s Picture Books for Gift-Giving

There are many, many wonderful picture books that would make fabulous gifts for children in the holiday season or anytime. To pick just six of the books that children will enjoy at any time of year was difficult, but each book will perfectly fit a need for young children in a range of ages and interests.

“ABC Dream” is an incredibly beautiful alphabet picture book by Kim Krans. Each page of illustrations is a work of art, and children will love finding and naming all the things in each letter’s page. Each page is thoughtful and lovely. Read the full review here. (Random House)

“Nanette’s Baguette” is by ever-popular, ever-clever author and illustrator Mo Willems. In this story, Nanette is finally allowed to go to the bakery and get the baguette. Willems is careful to describe baguettes (warm and wonderful-smelling). And the book is filled, completely filled, with rhymes for baguette and Nanette. For example, “Look! There’s Mr. Barnett with his pet, Antoinette! Nanette pets Antoinette. Did Nanette forget the baguette?” The story is sweet and appropriately predictable, and kids will want to hear it over and over again. (Hyperion Books for Children)

iwantmyhat“I Want My Hat Back” by Jon Klassen is a picture book that belongs in the library of every toddler or young child. Children from three and through third grade will enjoy this clever story on several levels. The youngest readers will simply enjoy the story of a bear who wants his hat back. Those who are ready to make inferences will greatly enjoy realizing that through the language in the dialogue, Klassen reveals what has really happened. There are two stories going on; one is the literal story and the other is what must be inferred. Read the full review here. (Candlewick Press)

A picture book about a floating cat named Papillon will enchant children. In “Papillon Goes to the Vet,” A. N. Kang persuades children that going to the vet (or doctor) is not a terrible experience. When Papillon swallows a toy, he feels sick and is unable to float. But an overnight at the vet’s cures Papillon and he’s good as new the next day. (Disney -Hyperion)

Children love rhyming books, and Corey Rosen Schwartz is an expert at creating fractured fairy tales with great rhythm. “Twinderella: A Fractioned Fairy Tale” is a book that she labored over for years. It’s about Cinderella and her twin sister, Twinderella. This imaginative fairy tale take-off is filled with fractions and math and twins galore. Unlike many fairy tales, in this one the main character loves to do math! Read the full review here. (Putnam Books)

And a picture book that will be appreciated by older picture book lovers is “7 Ate 9: The 7ate9Untold Story” by Tara Lazar and very cleverly illustrated by Ross MacDonald. The story is filled with double-entendres, homophones, and idioms. 7 is the “prime” suspect when 9 goes missing. During the course of the story, they visit the “pi” shop where the waitress, B, has the scoop. Finally, to the delight of readers, Private I puts two and two together to solve the mathematical mystery. It’s a story that can be read over and over to squeeze out every bit of cleverness. Read the full review here. (Disney-Hyperion)

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

 

 

5 Children’s Picture Books With Messages for Young Readers

This holiday season, or any time of the year, it’s wonderful to find picture books that share  uplifting messages for young readers. Many picture books, fiction and nonfiction, allow young readers to think about issues such as fairness, inclusion, and just that it’s okay to be different. Here are some really thoughtful books that will open children’s horizons in wonderful ways.

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‘Terrific’ Is a Heck of a Terrific Picture Book by Jon Agee

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Like most of Jon Agee’s picture books, “Terrific” will be one of those books that kids want to hear again and again. The story is of a cynical man whose response to everything that happens to him — good and bad — is to say “Terrific.”

He’s a cynical man. When, at the start of the book, he wins an all-expense-paid trip to Bermuda, he says, “Terrific. I’ll probably get a really nasty sunburn.” Well, he ends up marooned on a desert island with only a parrot for company.

“Terrific,” said Eugene. “What good is a parrot?”
“You’d be surprised,” said the parrot.
Eugene was surprised.

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‘Malala’s Magic Pencil’ by Malala Yousafzai Is a Story About Possibilities and Kids Love It

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While the name “Malala” is quite familiar to adults, children may not know who the author of this picture book is. In “Malala’s Magic Pencil,” Malala Yousafzai tells her story, and it’s one that opens the eyes of the kids hearing her tale.

She starts her story telling about a show that she watched as a child, a TV show about a magic pencil that could create anything that was drawn with it. The boy who used it, the hero, always used the magic to protect people who needed help. Malala thought of the things she would do with a magic pencil.

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‘The Wolf, the Duck & the Mouse’ by Mac Barnett and Jon Klassen

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In “The Wolf, the Duck & the Mouse,” Mac Barnett and Jon Klassen create another fantastic fable that will be devoured by children around the world, just as the titular wolf devours the duck and the mouse.

The three characters, two of whom were swallowed by the wolf, must join forces to save all their lives. And ironically, the smaller and seemingly more helpless of the trio are the ones who save the day.

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‘Bruce’s Big Move’ Author Ryan Higgins Opens Up and Shares Secret Behind Bruce’s Curmudgeonly Character and More

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With the release of the third “Bruce” book, “Bruce’s Big Move,” author Ryan Higgins agreed to answer some questions that delve deep into the heart of this wonderful series and its grumpy but lovable main character, Bruce.

Who would have thought that the character of Bruce was based on the author’s grandfather? Higgins shares that: Continue reading

‘Bruce’s Big Move’: Bruce and His Geese Are Back! And It’s a Giveaway of All the Bruce Books! #BrucesBigMove #FollowBruce

Disney-Hyperion sent me a copy of Bruce’s Big Move to review and is partnering with me for a giveaway!

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Not only is kids’ favorite picture book character back, one lucky Bruce fan will win a 3bruce bookswhole lotta’ Bruce: All three of the fabulous Bruce books, including “Mother Bruce,” “Hotel Bruce,” and “Bruce’s Big Move.”

ENTER TO WIN HERE

After “Mother Bruce” and  “Hotel Bruce” comes “Bruce’s Big Move,” a book starring the curmudgeonly bear Bruce which is every bit as sweet and touching as the first two “Bruce” books.

In this fabulous picture book, Bruce is tired of living a chaotic life with not only his four geese children but the three mischievous mice who make life noisy, messy, and filled with nonstop action. Bruce craves some peace and quiet.

He tries sending the mice away, but nothing works. They are happily oblivious to his best efforts and don’t go anywhere. Finally, Bruce decides that he and the geese must move. They find a beautiful home on the edge of a lovely lake. There is sweet solitude and plenty of quiet contentment.

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‘Snappsy the Alligator and His Best Friend Forever (Probably): A Clever Picture Book About Friendship

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“Snappsy the Alligator and His Best Friend Forever (Probably)” by Julie Falatko and illustrated by Tim Miller is a picture book that is humorous, educational and even, at the end, touching.

Snappsy is kind of a grumpy guy. When his “best friend,” a chicken, wants to have all kinds of fun with him, Snappsy responds that he really just wants a quiet evening alone. Readers, adults and kids alike, will laugh as Snappsy, at the brink of frustration, explains how they are not best friends: Continue reading

Three Must-Have Picture Books for Young Animal Lovers and Others

There are three astonishingly beautiful picture books for children which should be considered for every school library or bookshelf.

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“How to Heal a Broken Wing” by Bob Graham is the fictional account of a pigeon who flies into a skyscraper in the middle of a large city and falls to the sidewalk. People walk past, unseeing and uncaring, but when Will and his mother walk by, Will sees. Will cares. Will breaks away from his mother and goes back to the hurt bird. He gently picks it up and holds it out to his mother.

This touching story of one boy’s compassion for a bird many consider dirty and vermin-like is beautifully told and illustrated. The text is quite spare as are the illustrations. Both parents make identical gestures when they first see the bird — their hands on their heads as if to say, “Really?!” But both wholeheartedly join in the rescue attempt, the mother giving up her scarf to carefully wrap the bird for its trip to their house and the father going out to buy the injured bird a cage to recuperate in. And slowly — the author shows the passage of time through illustrations of the changing moon — the bird heals.

This is a story that will not soon be forgotten, and it might just be the book that changes a child’s life and view of those who are helpless, those whom others don’t notice, those who desperately need help. It’s a story that would certainly facilitate productive conversations about helping others and the value of life.

Quite different from the fictional story of one pigeon is the nonfiction book “Many: TheIMG_3282 Diversity of Life on Earth” by Nicola Davies and illustrated by Emily Sutton. In “Many,” the author presents the incredible diversity, the incredibly enormous numbers and types of plants and animals and even microbes that exist alongside of us on our planet. From two kinds of huge elephants (African and Asian) to more than 600 kinds of oak trees; from over 100,000 kinds of mushrooms to thousands of microbes in one teaspoon of dust, and from deserts to islands, from treetops to the bottom of the ocean, the author states:

“We have learned that every kind of living thing is part of a big, beautiful, complicated pattern.

The last part of the book warns about the danger of continuing to disrupt the beautiful, natural pattern that is life on Earth. “The trouble is, all over the world, human beings are destroying pieces of the pattern…” Examples are chemicals poisoning our air, rivers and oceans and fishing boats emptying the oceans and people cutting forests resulting in the extinction of animals and plants.

This book is perfect for starting a conversation or project about the environment and what we must do to protect it for our children and future generations.

IMG_3281Another nonfiction picture book is “Song of the Wild: A First Book of Animals” also by Nicola Davies and illustrated by Petr Horácek. This picture book is organized by “Big and Small,” “Color and Shapes,” Animal Homes,” “Animal Babies,” and “Animals in Action.”

The largest bird, the African ostrich, is compared to the tiniest, a hummingbird just bigger than a bee. It could fit inside the ostrich’s eye. The information is presented in rhyme, which makes this a lovely book to read aloud.

“The ostrich lives in Africa
in grasslands hot and dry,
the biggest bird in all the world —
in fact, too large to fly.”

There are giraffes and lions and elephants and ants. One sepia and taupe monochromatic page titled “What Am I?” presents information about mammals, birds, amphibians, reptiles, fish, and more. The next page begins “Colors and Shapes” and has brilliant color illustrations of beetles with the information that there are more than 300,000 kinds of beetles. Camel with their humps, zebras and tigers resplendent with stripes, and a panda grace the pages of this chapter.

This is not a picture book for a quick read. Rather, this is a picture book that youngsters will want to peruse slowly as they absorb all the information. They will learn that even a crocodile is tender when it comes to her babies.

“No one thinks of crocodiles as gentle;
tenderness is something for the doves.
But when baby crocodiles are hatching,
it’s hard to say they don’t get Mother’s love.”

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