It’s been quite a while since my last Kid Lit post, but not for a lack of research or delightful book discoveries to share. In addition to devouring the twenty or so books in our weekly library haul, Charleston has developed a renewed interest in all of our personal books now that they are housed in accessible shelves in his room. (In our previous house, his bookshelf was in the closet, which had a child safety lock on it.) Many of our books are mine from when I was his age, and it’s been so fun to revisit the Little Golden Books and Sesame Street tales that delighted me as a child.
The books I’m sharing today are (mostly) more recent titles. Each one met Charleston’s high picture book standards (engaging story, captivating illustrations) as well as my own criteria for worthwhile children’s books (rich language, creative storytelling, and a strong message or educational component). If you have a preschooler, he or she is sure to enjoy these books as well!
I’m Trying to Love Spiders, by Bethany Barton: In this silly yet relatable story, an arachnophobic narrator is trying to learn to like spiders. The only problem is that she keeps accidentally squishing them! The book’s fascinating spider facts will interest elementary-aged children, while the interactive component holds the interest of younger readers.
Visitor for Bear, by Bonny Becker: Curmudgeonly Bear is happy for his home to be visitor-free, but when Mouse stops by for a visit, Bear fails in his numerous attempts to get Mouse to leave. Charleston couldn’t stop laughing at the slapstick storytelling, and I loved the sweet messages of persistence and friendship. We’ve read other books in this series, and they are all a delight.
Sitting Ducks, by Michael Bedard: The ducks produced in Ducktown’s Colossal Duck Factory have one purpose: to be eaten by alligators. When a wayward duck goes home with one of the alligator factory workers, he soon wins the heart of his kidnapper. Such a charming story of unexpected friendship, and the illustrations are vibrant and fun.
The Secret Birthday Message, by Eric Carle: We’re all familiar with Eric Carle’s Hungry Caterpillar and Brown Bear, Brown Bear, but this book was new to me, and Charleston and I both enjoyed it just as much as Carle’s classics. The simple story involves a treasure hunt and secret message and teaches important skills like symbol recognition and clue following. This would would serve as a great launching point for a cross-curricular homeschool unit on mapmaking, writing and following instructions, art, and literature.
Rubia and the Three Osos, by Susan Middleton Elya: Charleston is a big fan of fairytales and retellings, and this is a great one that incorporates Spanish vocabulary into the traditional Goldilocks story. We enjoyed the creative rhyming scheme and the surprise twist ending!
The Scrambled States of America, by Laurie Keller: Laurie Keller has become one of my favorite children’s book author-illustrators. Her books are fun and colorful, which holds Charleston’s attention, but they incorporate plenty of more mature humor and clever asides that take the books to the next level and keep me interested. In this whimsical story, the fifty states decide to switch places—a move that results in disaster and has the states eager to unscramble themselves and return to their proper spots on the map. This is a great book for introducing children to United States geography.
We’re All Wonders, by R. J. Palacio: I adore R.J. Palacio’s middle grade novel Wonder, and this picture book incorporates that book’s memorable characters and important themes of uniqueness, courage, and kindness in a package that younger readers can understand. We’re All Wonders opened up the door for our family to have some important conversations about empathy and inclusion.
Chee-Kee: A Panda in Bearland, by Suejean Rim: When the Loo family travels from Korea to begin a new life in a new country, Chee-Kee the panda finds himself the outsider in a community of bears where everyone else looks and acts differently from him. I loved this book’s multicultural elements and the opportunities it provided for us to talk about the importance of welcoming others and the value of embracing your own unique identity.
I Want to Go to the Moon, by Tom Saunders: This is easily Charleston’s favorite book on this list. (After holding onto our library copy for over a month, we finally bought it for our own family library!) The book—which is the illustrated lyrics to a song that can be found on the accompanying CD—tells the story of Neil Armstrong’s lifelong pursuit of traveling to the moon, and how he eventually achieved his goal despite the protestations from family, teachers, and employers who told him his dream was an impossible one. Neil Armstrong has become Charleston’s hero and role model in his own ambition of one day traveling to Saturn.
A Home for Bird, by Philip C. Stead: In this tale of friendship and persistence, Vernon the toad is determined to find a home that his silent bird friend will love. I won’t give away the ending, but it is adorable!
The Donkey Egg, by Janet Stevens: In this comical tale of foiled trickery, wily Fox convinces Bear that he needs a donkey to help him on his farm. He then convinces Bear to buy a “donkey egg” that must be nurtured until it’s ready to hatch. But the joke is on Fox when the “egg” ultimately does prove fruitful for Bear. The Donkey Egg is imaginative, unexpected, and a true feast for the eyes and for the soul.
My New Teacher and Me, by Al Yankovic: I had low expectations from a book by Al Yankovic, but this one proved to be a wonderful surprise! On the first day of school, Billy is met by his strict teacher Mr. Blooth who refuses to believe his over-the-top excuses for why he showed up to school covered in dirt. Billy’s far-fetched stories land him in the principal’s office, and while he’s away, Mr. Blooth learns Billy’s tales might not have been so crazy after all. We enjoyed this book’s silliness as well as the important themes of honesty and giving others the benefit of the doubt.
What is the best picture book you’ve read recently? Please send your recommendations our way!