At the start of this year, Charleston and I were plowing through chapter books together and loving them. But out of the blue, Charleston let me know that he didn’t want to read chapter books anymore and would prefer to stick with picture books for a while. I’m sure we will be returning to longer books soon, but for now we are enjoying [only] picture books during our shared reading time, and we have discovered quite a few delightful ones.
Here’s a look at some titles that have stood out for Charleston and me, and that we think you and your kids might enjoy reading, too.
How to Find an Elephant, by Kate Banks: Cloudy days are best for finding an elephant. The best place to find one is in the wild . . . and throughout the pages of this book, which follows a young explorer into the jungle in search of that seemingly elusive elephant. The story here is simple, but the illustrations are whimsical and imaginative, marrying fantasy and realism. Charleston got a kick out of finding the elephants camouflaged within the detailed nature scenes.
Throw Your Tooth on the Roof: Tooth Traditions from Around the World, by Selby Beeler: My friend Cara sent this to Charleston to celebrate the loss of his first tooth. We loved reading about the unique and surprising things that children in other countries do with their lost teeth. Many of the customs are similar to our own Tooth Fairy tradition, and some were VERY different. The book provided a fun way to learn international traditions and geography, and the clever format inspired Charleston to make his own book about some of his other (non-tooth-related) habits and practices.
Diary of a Spider, by Doreen Cronin: The title explains it all: this really is the diary of a spider, but this spider’s daily life is suspiciously similar to that of his readers. Through comical illustrations and droll journal entries, we join a young spider at school and for family story time (as they read—what else—Charlotte’s Web) and also in more spider-y endeavors, like molting, vacuum drills, and wind-catching lessons. Woven into the silliness are some interesting lessons about spiders and a sweet message about friendship, prejudice, and learning to get along with those who are different from us. Charleston and I also enjoyed the companion books, Diary of a Fly and Diary of a Worm.
Finding Winnie: The True Story of the World’s Most Famous Bear, by Lindsay Mattick: This book is my favorite of the bunch! It tells the true story of Harry Coulborn, a veterinarian in 1914 who rescued a baby bear on his way to tend horses in World War 1. The bear—named Winnie after Harry’s home town of Winnipeg—eventually went to live at the London Zoo, where she became a favorite of a little boy named Christopher Robin and eventually served as the inspiration for Winnie-the-Pooh. Finding Winnie was my introduction to this behind-the-scenes story, and Charleston and I were both fascinated by the history and smitten with Winnie the Bear. The end of the book contains some marvelous photographs of Winnie, Harry, and the author (who happens to be Harry Coulborn’s great-granddaughter!).
Dragons Eat Noodles on Tuesdays, by Jon Stahl: In this playful little story, two monster friends argue over the direction of a story about a dragon. One monster predicts a dire outcome for the dragon’s victims, while the other monster manages to save a knight from becoming the dragon’s dinner when a brave damsel reminds the predatory dragon that “dragons eat ONLY noodles on Tuesdays.” Unbeknownst to the storytelling monsters, a dragon is listening nearby. . . and it isn’t Tuesday. Charleston and I both laughed out loud with this witty story, and we enjoyed the colorful illustrations and speech bubbles that reminded us of our beloved Piggie and Elephant books.
Scaredy Squirrel, by Mélanie Watt: This series about an irrationally fearful squirrel is a current favorite with Charleston. The books—which are not at all scary—make light of squirrel’s exceedingly silly phobias and demonstrate how opening up to scary things can lead to a much more fulfilling and enjoyable life. The illustrations are comic book-like, a style Charleston really enjoys. These books would be a fantastic tool for helping fearful children work through their anxieties in a fun, nonthreatening way.
A Stone Sat Still, by Brendan Wenzel: I know I said that Finding Winnie was my favorite book on this list, but this one is a very close second. The gorgeously illustrated book spans hundreds of years in the life of a stationary stone. As time marches on, the stone observes the world changing around it, and the calming, rhythmic narrative describes the stone’s ever-fluctuating environment. Charleston cried at the end of this book, which finds the stone submerged at the bottom of the sea, but the story paved the way for some great conversations about change, perception, and the passage of time. Such a lovely and poetic book, and the pictures are pretty enough to hang on a wall.
Have you read any picture books lately that you think Charleston and I would enjoy? We’d love your recommendations!