Tag Archives: Children’s

The Ten Final Round Nominees for Best Children’s Picture Book in the Goodreads Choice Awards

  1. Triangle by Mac Barnett, Illustrations by Jon Klassen (ages 2-4) – This is a mostly black and white book about a triangle that plays a sneaky trick on his friend, square.  It is a simple story with silly humor meant for very young children.
  2. A Greyhound,  A Groundhog by Emily Jenkins, Illustrated by Chris Appelhans (ages 2-6) – A beautifully illustrated book that reads like a long poem with dreamy whimsical illustrations.   The words repeat, rhyme, and transform into new meanings with very slight variations.   A joyful reading experience for meant for young children, but a book adults will enjoy reading again and again as well.
  3.  Little Fox in the Forest by Stephanie Graegin (ages 3-7) – This is a fantastic magical wordless picture  book for youngsters.  The only words in this story appear on the chalkboard, school or a box.  The story, told in picture boxes in shades of blue and white only, are of a young girl bringing her favorite stuffed animal, a fox, for show and tell.  After school, she stops at the playground to swing and places her backpack on the ground.  A colorful orange fox in a yellow sweater sneakily steals the stuffed fox away.  The little girl and her friend set out through this blue and white shaded background in search of her beloved stuffed animal and slowly come upon more colorful creatures and trees until at last they arrive at this very colorful animal city which its own stores, restaurants and homes.  At last they find the home of the young fox who took her blue stuffed fox.  He is reluctant to return it and  offers a purple unicorn instead.  That night the little girl is asleep with this wonderfully colored purple unicorn from the fox’s brilliant world and the fox is tucking in his blue fox from her world.  Imaginative, lovely and highly recommended!
  4. Over and Under the Pond by Kate Messner with art by Christopher Silas Neal (ages 4-8) A gorgeously illustrated and beautifully written book about the animals over and under the pond upon which a mother and son canoe.  There is much action of the animals observed by the pair that creates a quiet excitement for what they might see next.  The pond ecosystem is explored in its entirety within this fun children’s book.  At the end, a picture of each animal mentioned or illustrated is set next to a longer description of the animal.  My children had a great time reading these informational pieces and then searching back through the book to find where each were illustrated.  This is a highly recommended book for nature lovers to explore the pond ecosystem.  It is a beautiful and informational read!
  5. She Persisted:  13 American Women Who Changed the World by Chelsea Clinton, Illustrated by Alexandra Boigner (ages 4-8) – This book is about 13 women, important to American history, who persisted despite obstacles in doing something important to improving lives and humanity.  Each pages tells the story of a different woman.  It moves through history from the time of slavery with Harriet Tubman to more recent times with Sonia Sotomayor.  Upon each page is also a quote from the woman being described that serves to inspire young people.  This book has a great message to young girls to follow their dreams, even if told they are impossible.  This book is highly recommended for young girls determined to change the world!
  6. The Legend of Rock Paper Scissors by Drew Daywalt, Illustrated by Adam Rex (ages 4-10). The dramatic effect of this book with legends, battles, and duels creates great excitement and  enthusiasm in children reading this or listening to this book.  Everyone knows how to play rock, paper scissors, but did they know the legend behind it?  This book is sure to be a favorite of youngsters everywhere and will lead to many more games of rock paper scissors shoot as a result.
  7. The Book of Mistakes by Corinna Luyken (ages 4-12)   This is an artistic book where continued mistakes in the artwork lead to changes and elaborations of the beautiful fun artwork that is developing.  The message of this book is to not let mistakes frustrate you or set you back.  Mistakes could lead to discovering beautiful unique ideas or expressions.  Learn from and explore your mistakes!  This is a beautifully illustrated book sure to inspire young artists everywhere!
  8. We’re All Wonders by R. J. Palacio (ages 5-8) This is the abbreviated children’s picture book version of R.J. Palacio’s much acclaimed Wonder.  It is about a boy with facial deformities who is felt to be a wonder by his immediate family, but he knows that other people look at him differently.  He hears the unkind things they say behind his back and his feelings are hurt as a result.  He escapes into an imaginary world on Pluto with strange space creatures.   He realizes from this far away vantage point that the world is big enough for all kinds of people.  He can’t change the way he looks… but maybe people can change the way they view others. This book has wonderful message about kindness.  It is a message to everyone to look for the beauty, the wonder, the good in other people.  Highly recommended!
  9. Malala’s Magic Pencil by Malala Yousafzai, Illustrated by Kerascoet (ages 5-8)- This picture book details Malala’s childhood in Pakistan.  It describes the poverty, the reasons some children might not go to school – needing to help make money for food or perhaps parental beliefs that only boys go to school as girls should stay home and cook and clean.  The “men with guns” come into their city and make it unlawful for girls to go to school.  Despite this, Malala continues her education and writes and speaks out about her belief that everyone deserves education.  The Taliban try to silence her but they fail.  There are many parts of this book that parents are able to go into more detail with their children or simply leave it at that if they feel the truth may scare their children.  This is a wonderful book about an amazing young woman and an excellent story for young children to be familiar with.  This book can be a great jumping off point for much further discussion and conversation about certain issues.  This is a book that should be in classrooms everywhere!
  10. The Youngest Marcher:  The Story of Audrey Faye Hendricks, a young Civil Rights Activist by Cynthia Levinson, illustrated by Vanessa Brantley Newton (ages 7-10) – This inspirational biography is about the courage of 9 year old Audrey Faye Hendricks and her role in the Civil Rights Movement. Audrey grew up in Birmingham, Alabama at a time when black people could not be served food in the same room at restaurants together. The year is 1963 and black children went to different schools and had hand-me-down textbooks from the white students. Audrey did not feel this was fair and when Dr. Martin Luther King visited their church, she wanted to be part of the solution. His call to “fill the jails” was heeded by children, as part of the Children’s March (May 1963). Audrey was arrested and spent a week in juvenile hall. Two months later Birmingham rescinded its segregation ordinances. This book does an excellent job of portraying the childhood figure of Audrey, her home life, and her tremendous courage and heroism at such a young age fighting for what she believed in. This is an amazing book that reminds us how recent in history these events occurred. This book brought up great questions and discussion from my kids. Highly informative, incredibly interesting, and most highly recommended!

My family had a great time exploring these books as well as the full list of children’s books that were listed in the beginning round.  The book I was most sad to see not move forward into the final round was A Different Pond by Bao Phi.  It’s an amazing book, one that I will probably devote a full post to reviewing.  Trying to choose a favorite of these ten books is very difficult because each book is so unique and speaks to children of varying ages and interests..  My 5 year old daughter was captivated with The Youngest Marcher and Malala’s Magic Pencil.  We read each of these  books countless times.  Despite her fascination with the stories of these two young women who courageously stood up for what they believed in, she was entirely bored with Chelsea Clinton’s She Persisted.  In Clinton’s book, a new woman is presented upon each page and this proved to be less engaging and harder to relate to, as many of the women’s accomplishments were in adulthood rather than childhood.  All of my children as well as my husband were thoroughly entertained by The Legend of Rock Paper Scissors.  It is an incredibly well told exciting story that is fun to read.   My overall favorite and the one I voted for was The Youngest Marcher.  It is a great story about a young heroine whose story I did not know previously.  The reader gets to know this young girl, her family, and her values.  The reader can empathize with her feelings about inequality and marvel at her bravery.

Did you read these books?  If so, which was your favorite?  The winning book will be announced in two days.  Which do you think will win?

Owly Vol.1: The Way Home and The Bittersweet Summer by Andy Runton ~ Book Review

Pages:  160

Published: September 29, 2004

Format:  Softcover book





I chose to read this book because of it’s description as an “all ages comic book,” in order to help complete this year’s Book Riot Read Harder Challenge.  I was surprised when it arrived to see exactly how few words this book contained.  The animals make noises and occasionally there are words shown from a book one of the animals is reading, but that’s about it.    Conversations are conveyed through bubbles containing pictures.  Emotions are expressed by way of pictures. I found it pretty incredible that so much could be conveyed without words and with some fairly simplistic depictions.

This book is composed of two novellas, each in comic book style.  In the first, Owly, the charming main character, is out to help others and make friends.  He puts birdseed out for the birds.  He frees captured fireflies.  He rescues Wormy from nearly drowning in a puddle during a rainstorm and stays up all night making sure he is ok.  The next day he helps Wormy find his parents.  In the second novella, Owly and Wormy go out of their way to research and find the right food for two hungry hummingbirds.  Owly also must learn to let go in this story, as the hummingbirds must migrate south for the summer.   Owly’s good deeds do not go unnoticed and those he has helped become his loyal friends, destined to return even if flying far away.

These are truly heartwarming, enchanting tales of friendship and kindness.  I read this with my 4 year old daughter who summed the book up in one word, “awesome.”  I look forward to reading more of Owly in the future. 

Andy Runton’s website – contains teaching tools, coloring sheets, animation shorts and much more!

Non-Fiction Children’s Animal Books!

My two younger children adore reading and learning about animals so much so that that has been the bulk of our reading for the past 8 months.  There are two favorites that I will discuss first and then two more that we read after requesting them from netgalley which I will review subsequently.


National Geographic Animal Encyclopedia: 2,500 Animals with Photos, Maps, and More! by National Geographic Kids

Pages:  304

Published: October 23, 2012






This book is fabulous!  I cannot believe this book that is so densely packed with information entertained my 4 and 6 year old nightly for a period of 6 months.  I might have thought the content would have been too dry, describing the diet, habitat, size and lifespan of animal after animal, however, my children were riveted.  The book is divided into sections by taxonomy:  mammals, birds, fish, invertebrates, amphibians reptiles.  Within each section, each page is devoted to a particular animal group and then goes more in depth on 8-10 particular species of that group.  I personally loved learning so much about all these animals.  We would make each page a game with me quizzing my children at the end of each page to see how much they retained.  Our  “Guess the Animal” game in the car has become quite sophisticated as a result of this book.  I loved how at the end of each taxonomy there is a page that goes into records: biggest, fastest, most poisonous, etc.  There are also pages describing researchers studying animal species in the wild which has served as a source of professional inspiration for my son.  If you have an animal lover in your family, I cannot recommend this book enough!  The photos are stunning, the maps detailing where the animals live are highly educational and there is so much depth to this book for great discussion to occur.  


Did You Know? Animals by DK Publishing

Pages: 144

Published: May 17, 2016






Having already tackled the National Geographic Encyclopedia of Animals, there was great enthusiam when this book entered our house, especially from my 4 year daughter.  This book was exactly what she wanted.  She would carry it around the house, begging for someone to read it to her and once it was finished, we would start again at the beginning.  Each page focuses on one animal species and starts with a question to get you thinking.  It discusses the answer to the question and gives descriptive information about the animal with arrows from the text to the relative anatomy.  It usually talks briefly about a couple of other animals who may have a similar behavior or adaption.  Then there is a “quick quiz” which covers topics that usually have not been covered in the text.  This did not cause concern for us.  We usually discussed the question, made a guess and then checked our answers in the back.  The re-reading was satisfying for my daughter because she was able to remember many of the answers to these “quick quizzes,” most of which we had been guessing at the first time around.  The photos are beautiful, the text engaging, and as demonstrated in our family… a great book for reading over and over.  


“Different?  Same!”  by Heather Tekavec and  Pippa Curnick (Illustrator)

Pages:  32

Expected Publication Date: May 2, 2017




This is a beautiful and playful animal book that seeks to engage young readers by pointing out differences between groupings of widely different animals and then asking what similarity exists.   The similarity might be stripes, horns, whiskers or shells.  It  is wonderfully written and beautifully illustrated.  It was engaging and fun to read with my four year old.  I would highly recommend this to readers 2-5 years old.  It makes you consider animals in different ways and think about why these vastly different animals might all have horns, whiskers, shells, etc.  We had fun with the last page of the book, pointing at various animals that all had a particular characteristic or habitat.  This is a great book for re-reading and generating discussion! 


“Animals Do Too!:  How They Behave Just Like You”  by Etta Kaner and Marilyn Faucher (Illustrator)

Pages:  32

Expected Publication Date:  May 2, 2017






This book asks the child a question followed by a discussion of how a particular animal likes to do the same thing.  It is playful in that it makes animal behavior seem childlike and fun.  A couple of examples are:  honeybees dance and gazelles play tag.  There are eight such children activity – animal behavior comparisons explored in this book.   This is a great read for any young animal lover, aged 2-5.  


Striker, Slow Down!: A Calming Book for Kids who are Always on the Go by Emma Hughes, Illustrations by John Smisson ~ Book Review





Pages: 40

Expected Publication:  October 21, 2016

Format:  E-book from netgalley



This is a cute picture book about a cat who is alway wound up, keeping busy, running circles around himself.  It is full of gentle reminders to slow down, relax, find quiet.    My 6 year old summed it as “a book about finding peace.”   Interestingly, I have an 8 year old who is this “on-the-go”, “can’t-sit-still” personality.  My 6 and 4 year olds with whom I read the book with, had trouble identifying their brother in this story.  This would be a lovely book to read with a child who has these tendencies, as a reminder that it’s ok to slow down, especially in today’s society where there is so much emphasis on starting sports and other activities so early.  In today’s world we are always telling are children to go, go, go.  This is a nice reminder to children and parents alike that it’s great to slow down, breath, think, be.  The illustrations are lovely: simplistic and fun.  It makes sense that a yoga instructor wrote this, someone who has a practice of patience, of mediation.  This is definitely something our children need more of in life, which is easy to forget.   I recommend this book highly, especially for anxious children, or those with ADD.3-stars


Discussion Questions:

  1.  Do you know anyone who acts like Striker?
  2. How does Striker finally calm down?
  3. What ways do you find to calm down?
  4. What activities do you find relaxing?
  5. What activities make you anxious?


The Pruwahaha Monster by Jean-Paul Mulders, Illustrations by Jacques Maes and Lise Braekers ~ Book Review




Pages: 26

Expected Publication Date:  October 4, 2016

Format:  E-book from Netgalley




This is a gorgeous picture book with a beautiful story in such a unique format.  I loved it to pieces and, even as a parent, I could read it over and over, discovering new bits of language and illustration to enjoy and appreciate.

There is a foreward that lets the reader know the the story is told by a father as he pushes is son on a swing.  The story he tells is slightly scary, about a monster looking to eat a boy, however, the moral is empowerment for the boy not acknowledging the monster.

I love the shape of the book, being long and narrow.  Even though I read an electronic version, I could envision holding this shape in my hands.  The words are usually contained only on every other page, drawing you further into the beauty and importance of the illustrations, which really go hand and hand with the story.  The story would be nothing without the illustrations, and vice versa.  I love the detail of the illustrations and the writing, the way the words invite you in to search for the acorn, the bicycle, the bird poop.  The father tells the story through the voice of the monster which leaves the reader guessing and searching, but maybe also knowing all along who he is.   It is lovely that the 5 year old boy is unfazed by the monster.  It is a beautiful story with a wonderful moral that is perfect for discussion with children about the meaning of monsters, especially ones of their own creation.

The writing is beautiful.  It doesn’t shy away from difficult vocabulary.  It is descriptive and invokes all the senses:  vision, smell, touch, noise, taste.    I love the short sentence series, that seem childlike, about what the monster sees, about the foods that the monster does not like.  I love the different type sizes and fonts to remind the reader to speak those words with different volumes or inflections.   Most of all, I love the open-ended-ness of the story, the feeling of mystery, the wanting to go back and search through the pictures and words for answers.  Gorgeous!!  I recommend this to 5 year olds and their parents everywhere!  images

Discussion Questions:

  1.  Why wasn’t the boy afraid of the monster?
  2. Who was the monster?  Was he real?
  3. What protects the boy?
  4. What is a monster?
  5. What happens when he boy does not acknowledge the monster?



Gracie Meets a Ghost by Keiko Sena ~ Book Review




Pages: 32

Expected Publication: October 1, 2016

Format:  E-book from Netgalley


A perfectly timed ghost story for children!  Gracie is bespectacled rabbit who loses her glasses while playing in the mountains with her friends.   She goes in search of them, bumbling around into other animals, helpless without her glasses.  A friendly looking ghost attempts to scare her, however, because she cannot see the ghost she isn’t frightened.  She promises she will look at the ghost once her glasses are found.  The ghost appears kind and searches all night for her glasses.  Upon putting the glasses on, it is daylight, and the ghost has now vanished.  This is a cute ghost story that is nonthreatening.  It is a story that would be great to read with a child who needs to wear glasses, as the book brings up some great talking points around this.  The illustrations are playful and sweet.  I recommend this book for children ages 3-5, especially those who might need glasses.  images-2




Pedro, First Grade Hero by Fran Manushkin, Illustrated by Tammie Lyon ~ Book Review & Discussion Guide





Expected Publication:  September 1, 2016

Format:  E-book from netgalley





This is an early reader chapter book.  It is full of positive messages, word repetition, simple grammar and plenty of well done illustrations to help decode vocabulary.  I read it with my 6 year old and felt that it was very appropriate for his reading level and interest.  He very much would like to be reading chapter books and this is the perfect easier chapter book for him.   There is a lot of silly humor within this book and at the end.  It is the kind of humor you expect to hear a drumroll with to emphasize that it is funny, the kind of humor adults don’t appreciate so much, but 5-7 year olds think is hilarious.   I give itimages-2 and recommend it to 5-7 years, depending on reading ability.

Discussion Questions:

  1.  Is Pedro a hero?  Why or why not?  What do you think makes someone a hero?
  2. What do you think makes someone good at soccer?
  3. What kind of qualities do you think are important in a class president?
  4. If you were going to form a club with your friends, what kind of club would it be?
  5. Do you have a favorite bug?

Fran Manushkin’s webpage

The Night the Stars Went Out by Suz Hughes ~ Book Review & Discussion Guide



Pages:  33

Expected Publication:  August 1, 2016

Format:  E-book from netgalley



This is a children’s picture book featuring an alien who shines stars and makes no time for friends or play.  One night the stars go out and he goes to earth in search of magic star varnish.  He realizes that as he develops a friendship with a boy on earth that he didn’t need the varnish, he only needed friendship and joy in his heart.  It is beautifully illustrated.  I love that this book teaches children about friendship and balance. This book requires certain leaps of faith to keep up with the plot and logistics (alien floating on earth, boy and alien communicating by phone between earth and outer space), but children are more forgiving of these things.  I would give this 3-stars and recommend it to 2-6 year olds.

Discussion Questions:

  1.  Do you think there is an alien who polishes stars?
  2. What is gravity?  What happens when people go into outer space?
  3. Why is friendship and play important?  Who are your friends?  What are your favorite things to play?

Suz Hughes Website

Herbie’s Big Adventure by Jennie Poh ~ Book Review & Discussion Guide



Pages:  41

Expected Publication Date: September 1, 2016

Format:  E-book from netgalley



This is a beautifully illustrated, endearing story of a hedgehog about to set out to forage on his own for the first time.  It teaches about seasons, a mother’s love, leaving home, and separating from mom.  It explains what foraging is.  It teaches what it means to be brave, to overcome fears.  Indirectly, it also teaches about hibernation.  I interpreted the giant snowman in the story as a version of “Old Man Winter,” telling the animal to go to sleep, to hibernate.   When Herbie awakens, it is spring and he reunites with his mother.  The story is told in a way that all the senses are involved.  The words are noisy, soft, soothing, windy, rough, cold, wet at all the right times.  It is an adventure for all the senses.   The illustrations are lovely: sweet and natural, with special appeal to children.  I give this book images-2 and would recommend it to 2-6 year olds.

Discussion Questions:

  1.  What is foraging?
  2. Why does Herbie fall asleep while he is out foraging?
  3. What season is it when he returns home to his mother?
  4. Why was he gone so long?
  5. How long do you think he was hibernating?

Jennie Poh’s Blog

The Most Magnificent Thing by Ashley Spires ~ Book Review & Discussion Guide

18383325Pages: 32

Published:  April 1, 2014

Awards:  OLA Forest of Reading Blue Spruce Award Nominee (2015), Christie Harris Illustrated Children’s Literature Prize Nominee (2015)

Format:  E-book from netgalley


Wow!!  What an amazing book with a beautiful, truly insightful message for young children!  I just loved it through and through!!  It is the story of a little girl who wishes to create “the most magnificent thing.”  Despite all her efforts it does not come out as planned.  She is frustrated and upset, but is able to calm herself down with a walk.  When she returns to look at her work, she slowly realizes the goodness and rightness in pieces of what she has created and is able to work with that to achieve something she is quite happy with and proud of. It is a message that even adults need to hear and can learn from.

The illustrations are lovely.  I love the black and white backgrounds against the colorful foregrounds where the action is happening.  I love the writing style and think that there is so much new language and vocabulary that can be developed in the reader by the reiterations of different verbs and adjectives in the sentences.  This is a book that can be read again and again, and new things will be noticed, learned and appreciated.

I received this as a netgalley ARC, so was surprised when I read it to my children and they told me they had already heard/read it “thousands” of times at school.  I now realize, it had been published 2 years earlier, so I’m not at all surprised that schools are making this a part of the curriculum and school experience.  I highly recommend this to all children ages 3-10! images  It is wonderful!!


Discussion Questions:

  1.  What is the most magnificent thing that she attempts to make?
  2. What are some of the ways she tries to modify what she made so it will be as she imagined?
  3. Why does she get so upset?
  4. What does she do to calm herself down?
  5. What is something you would like to create?  How would you like to go about making it?  Do you think you might get frustrated along the way?  How might you help yourself to calm down?
  6. Do you think taking a break from work might be a good thing?  Why?
  7. If you were to have an assistant help you with your magnificent thing, who would it be?  Why?
  8. Do you think it’s ok to not be able to make something exactly the way you wanted to?
  9. The girl in this book, keeps trying, she perseveres… what do you think would happen if she just gave up after she got mad?

Ashley Spires’ website

Teaching Guide for The Most Magnificent Thing