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Everyday Diversity for Children: A List of Kids' Books for Preschool Through Primary Grades

Updated on September 20, 2017
Adele Jeunette profile image

Adele has been a youth services librarian in public libraries for 20 years. She received her MLIS from the University of Texas-Austin.

Everyday Diversity Books for Children Ages 3-8
Everyday Diversity Books for Children Ages 3-8

What Is Everyday Diversity?

Many teachers, parents, and librarians are looking for children's books which portray racially and ethnically diverse characters.

Many books focus on the aspects of certain cultures: what life is like in Chinatown, or how characters' grandparents participated in civil rights movements.

There is also a growing category of books which show diverse characters in everyday situations of contemporary life. These books show children interacting with clothes, toys, food, relatives, friends, fears, hopes, and all the other things that go along with being a human child. The message is that diverse children are all around us, and they can see themselves mirrored in these books in everyday situations.

Everyday Diversity Books for Preschoolers

This first section covers books that are appropriate for children ages 3-5.

Ada Twist, Scientist by Andrea Beaty
Ada Twist, Scientist by Andrea Beaty

New! Ada Twist, Scientist by Andrea Beaty

Kindergarten-Grade 4

Ada Twist, Scientist is another in the series of STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) books to come from the team of Andrea Beaty and David Roberts, their other titles being, Rosie Revere, Engineer, and Iggy Peck, Architect.

This book, which is written in clever rhyme, features an African-American family, including one very curious girl, Ada Twist. Little Ada is almost three when she speaks her first word, and that word is "Why?" She has just climbed to the top of the grandfather clock in her house, and she has all kinds of questions. "Why does it tick and why does it tock? Why don't we call it a granddaughter clock? Why are there pointy things stuck to a rose? Why are there hairs up inside your nose?" I think kids will get a kick out of all of Ada's questions, and teachers everywhere are also hoping that children will learn that asking questions is the very basis of scientific inquiry.

Little Ada soon proceeds to experimenting, sometimes with messy results (broken eggs and colorful bottles of soda erupting), but her family and her teacher both seem to realize messiness is part of the process, after all.

Halfway through the book, Ada comes up with a new quest: to find the source of a "horrible stench" that "whacked her right in the nose" while she was experimenting with other things. Observant children will notice that her brother happens to be walking by in his stocking feet just when she notices the smell.They will no doubt form a hypothesis of their own as to the source of the smell.

Meanwhile, Ada sets up a variety of experiments to test her assortment of hypotheses, but runs into a little parental pushback when she tries to put the cat in the washing machine. She is sent to her "Thinking Chair" while her mother and father calm down a bit. When they come back to Ada, they find the wall full of drawings she has made, still trying to figure out the answer to her question. Her parents sigh and wonder what they'll do with "this curious kid, who wanted to know what the world was about? They smiled and whispered 'We'll figure it out.' And that's what they did--because that's what you do when your kid has a passion and heart that is true."

I love the sense of language in this book and the humorous twists with the rhyme. The illustrations in this book make it look like great fun to be a scientist--or even to be a friend of Ada's.

 Round by Joyce Sidman
Round by Joyce Sidman

Round by Joyce Sidman

I've seen quite a few concept books that talk about circles and spheres, but I've never seen one with as much poetry and appreciation of the natural world as Round.

At the beginning of the book, we see a young girl reaching down to the ground for an orange. "I love round things," the narrator tells us. As the girl reaches up into the tree, the text says "I like to feel their smoothness. My hands want to reach around their curves."

Ever so subtly, the book becomes a little more scientific, showing us how many living things start from something round: a pea seed, or a turtle egg. As the book progresses, we see the girl with her parent (most us us at the library think it's a dad, though it could be a short-haired mom), and they walk through the woods, passing mushrooms, blueberries, sunflowers, rocks in the river, dung beetles, tree rings, ladybugs, raindrops, bubbles, stars and the moon.

The illustrations are just wonderful, and the pure poetry of text helps us see round things in a new way. On a two-page spread, we see the girl blowing bubbles, and then looking through a telescope at night. The text reads "I love when round things pop up quickly...and last only a moment. Or spin together slowly...and last billions of years."

One particularly poignant illustration shows the girl and her friends lying in a circle, arms outstretched, holding hands. "I can be round, too...in a circle of friends with no one left out." On the next page, we see how she also likes to curl into a ball by herself, with her pets and her books.

At the end of the book, there is some supplementary matter that asks "Why are so many things in nature round?" The answers there might be enlightening to even some adults. We learn that round is cozy--no sharp edges. It's a sturdy shape and minimizes stress on any one point, like an egg. When things spread out--a tree or a raindrop--they tend to spread out equally and create a round shape. Round rolls, and is balanced. And then, the author points out that so many things we value are round :eyes, faces, food, sun & moon, hugs.

It's a poetic and beautiful book that can be read quickly, or can be savored for its new way of seeing things. It's one to buy and to keep. I hope it wins an award this coming season.


I Am Truly
I Am Truly

I Am Truly

I am always on the lookout for books that are good for groups: punchy language and short amounts of text. This one fills the bill. I Am Truly is a celebration of a young girl who is confident in herself and loves exploring the world around her.

On the first page, we see a girl in roller skates and a tutu with pink sparkles in her curly ponytails. "I am Truly," she tells us. On the second page, she's put on star glasses, grabbed a guitar, and has her stuffed animal collection up in the trees with her playing rock music. "I like frogs and the color blue. I can climb trees and be a rock star, too."

Truly continues, showing us all the things she's proud of: building tall towers with blocks, tying her shoes, swimming, shooting baskets. And she also shows us the things she imagines when she's playing: leading her toy penguins to the top of a mountain, going sailing on a pirate boat, flying to the moon and dancing on the stars. The text rhymes, and one of my favorite segments reads, :I can sail the seas/on a little boat./ I can eat every bite/ of a root beer float."

The watercolor illustrations are bright, active, and just downright adorable.

At the end of the book, the authors include pictures of them and their daughters and tell us they created the book for their daughters. They tell us "We wanted them to see a strong, smart, problem-solving, confident young girl with beautiful curls who could do anything she set her mind to!"


New Red Bike!
New Red Bike!

New Red Bike!

When I saw the cover of this book, I knew it would be a hit with children who were in the process of learning to ride a bike. The boy looks so happy and free riding his new bike.

The text is simple and direct. A boy named Tom rides his new book up, down, and around in circles. Parents will be happy that the book starts by saying that Tom rides the bike "with both hands on the handlebars and with his helmet on."

This book is also a good example of a story that introduces a more varied vocabulary, especially when it comes to verbs. Tom zooms down the hill and sweeps down to his friend Sam's house.

A little conflict occurs when Sam borrows the bike without asking, but they soon work out taking turns. At the end of the book, we find that Sam has also been given a new bike.

The illustrations are large, uncluttered, and convey the sense of motion and freedom that comes with riding a bike.


If Your Monster Won't Go to Bed by Denise Vega
If Your Monster Won't Go to Bed by Denise Vega

If Your Monster Won't Go to Bed

The cover of this book caught my eye--and then I realized it is by an author who lives near me in Colorado. She's won quite a few Colorado Books Awards for her middle grade and young adult fiction, and now I see that she has gotten another picture book published.

The premise of this whimsical book is that a girl is telling you how to get a monster to bed. She starts with what won't work: bringing your dog in (the monster will just chase the dog) or counting sheep (the monster will just eat the sheep, and the wool will make him gassy.) And don't ask your parents for help, because they are just no good at it. (The illustration of the parents shows an interracial couple.)

The winning techniques for getting a monster bed follow a formula that will be familiar to human parents: a snack, a bath, a story, a song. Of course, there is a monster-y twist to all of these activities. The snack is "calming crunching, oozy bug juice," and the song is "Shock-a-Bye Baby."

The illustrations are bright and furry and add to the fun of the book.

Even Superheroes Have Bad Days
Even Superheroes Have Bad Days

New! Even Superheroes Have Bad Days

Yay for a superhero books with characters from all kinds of races and genders!

I love the illustrations in Even Superheroes Have Bad Days, which have a bit of a flat, retro feel to them, yet conjure up lots of frantic superhero action.

The text reminds me quite a bit of Jane Yolen’s How Do Dinosaurs Say Good Night? It starts by describing the fit that superheroes could have if they’re having a bad day. “When superheroes don’t get their way, when they’re sad/when they’re made, when they have a bad day…/…they could use super-powers to kick, punch, and pound. /They could shriek—they could screech with an ear-piercing sound.” Accompanying pages show our diverse group of superheroes causing all kinds of mayhem.

But then, the text shifts and shows us that superheroes find better ways to express their emotions. “But upset superheroes have all sorts of choices…/Instead of destruction and loud, livid voices/they burn angry steam off with speed-of-light hiking/or super-Xtreme outer space mountain biking.”

At the end, we see them mellowing out with meditation gathering around a campfire. The text lets children know that they the superheroes can show emotion, “It’s okay if they frown./It’s okay if they sigh./It’s even okay if they slump down and cry.” But, after that, they get up and get on with their day.”

What a nice primer on handling emotion that lets children see people like them who are also superheroes.

Jabari Jumps
Jabari Jumps

Jabari Jumps

I wasn’t much of a swimmer in grade school. Even though we had swim lessons most of my 6th-grade year, I didn’t get beyond a dog paddle, though I did get an A+ in floating. And when a rumor circulated that we would have to jump off the diving board, well, I thought the world was coming to an end. My father took me to the pool so that I could do the jump a few times and get used to the idea. I sat on the board until my swimsuit was dry before I finally slipped into his arms in the water.

So I’m familiar with the hesitation the main character feels in Jabari Jumps. Jabari, who looks to be about 7 or 8, has passed the swimming test, and he’s jazzed about jumping off the high board. “I’m a great jumper,” he tells his father, “so I’m not scared at all.” …Except that when he actually gets to the ladder, he lets all the other kids go before him because he needs some more time to think about what kind of jump he wants to do, an obvious stall for time.

His dad knows what’s going on, but gives Jabari the time he needs to process his fears by doing stretches and taking a little rest. Finally dad gives him some advice, telling him it’s OK to feel a little scared. He also points out that when he does something he’s a little afraid of, “it stops feeling scary and feels a little like a surprise.”

Jabari decides to take the plunge because he does love surprises. (Apparently, he’s an easier kid to convince than I was.) We follow him up and up and up the ladder and see the world from the high board. Finally, he jumps off the board and feels like he’s flying until he hits the water with an exuberant splash. We see him going down, down, down in the water, and then popping back up. This is one of the strengths of the book: it shows each step in the process and gives children a tangible idea of what it would be like to jump off the high dive. After Jabari and his dad celebrate, he announces that he’s going to do a surprise double backflip.

This is one of those books that is perfect for reading aloud to a large group. The story is fast-moving, the format is large, and the illustrations are active and easy to see from the back of the room. I love the color palette; it invokes the greens and blues of summer. I also like how Cornwall worked in little pieces of print in her illustrations. The strong relationship between a boy and his father is also a plus.


How to Find a Fox
How to Find a Fox

How to Find a Fox

This book has lots of humor and cuteness.

As the story opens, an unseen narrator is telling a little girl how to find a fox. At one point, the narrator says "Take out your fox bait. Place it somewhere easy to spot. Hide. Then wait very quietly."

We see the fox on one side of the double-page spread, hiding under the bushes. We see a turkey drumstick in the clearing, and we see the girl hiding on the other side of the page, camera ready to take a picture.

From here, the pictures show us a set of near misses that are reminiscent of the style of cartoons. The girl tires of holding her camera and walks off to try another tactic. As she leaves, we see that the fox has come out from the bushes and is eating the turkey leg behind her back.

As the girl follows the directions, the fox is always just above or behind her where she can't see.

Finally, when she has given up, the fox find her, and all is well.

A Squiggly Story
A Squiggly Story

A Squiggly Story by Andrew Larsen

Kindergarten-Grade 2

Having taught a fair number of writing classes for children, I recognize a story like this which is meant to get children kick-started on their own writing process.

At the beginning of A Squiggly Story , a young boy tells us that his older sister loves to read and write. He says "Sometimes I pretend I can write, too." It is clear that he can write some letters, and that he fills in with swirls and squiggles as well.

When he sees his sister writing a story, he wishes that he could write one too. "You can," says his sister. "It's easy." And then she dispenses the advice from writing teachers everywhere, "Write what you know."

The way the boy decides to write his story is rather clever. He begins with the letter I, then a small circle and then the letter u. He tells his sister that it represents the two of them playing soccer. She asks some follow up questions, and he decides that they are playing on the beach when a shark comes along. Then, as happens to many beginning writers, he gets stuck, not sure of what he wants to happen next.

He takes his story to school, and the children there give him lots of ideas. That night, he decides to go in a different direction and draws a rocket ship, which he realizes can become the beginning of his next story.

There are a couple of things I really like about this story. One is how well it models the writing process. The other is that these siblings actually get along. The older sisters mentors and encourages her brother; she doesn't correct him or tease him.

The illustrations are colorful, simple and have a cartoon quality to them.

Green, Green - A Community Gardening Story
Green, Green - A Community Gardening Story

Green, Green - A Community Gardening Story

This super-short book would take less than five minutes to read to a group, but it packs a lot of meaning into its text and pictures.

Written in a poetic style, the first spread shows us a diverse group of children playing out in the grass in the countryside. "Green green, " the text says, "fresh and clean." On the next page, we see people in the suburbs planting a garden. "Brown brown," says the text, "dig the ground."

On the following pages, though, we see diggers and heavy equipment come in to dig the ground and turn the area into a cityscape. Here, there are a few flowers and weeds in a vacant lot, but everything looks drab and gray.

Once again, though, the text says "Brown, brown, dig the ground?" The people in the neighborhood work together to clean up the lot and put in a community garden which is quite beautiful by the last page.

The back matter includes more information about community gardens, including a website. There is also some information on protecting pollinators and on how to make a butterfly craft.

Puddle
Puddle

Puddle by Hyewon Yum

Preschool - Grade 1

I like the emphasis on imagination in Puddle. At the beginning, a young boy is pouting because he hates rainy days and there is nothing to do. His mother tries to cajole him into drawing to pass the time, but he insists he doesn't want to.

So, the mother starts on her own. She draws an umbrella, and immediately we see the boy's body language change from pouty to interested. "Can you draw me holding it?" he asks. The mother obliges, and soon the boy is participating, drawing items to add to the scene. The mom draws a boy, and the boy draws a puddle. The drawing comes to life, and and soon the boy in the drawing is splashing around, getting everything wet. The real boy decides that it looks like so much fun that he wants to take a real walk in the rain. Surprise surprise, the real boy likes to splash in puddles as well. Mom and the dog join in for a joyous ending scene.

The illustrations are absolutely charming with spare details that let the plot of the story stand out.

Shawn Loves Sharks
Shawn Loves Sharks

Shawn Loves Sharks

Most of us have a come across a kid like this.

He absolutely loves sharks, to the point that he "knew all the shark movies by heart, and had 127 shark books." He thinks about them all the time, and runs around chasing the other kids with his mouth open wide.

When his teacher tells the class they are each going to get a different predator to learn about, Shawn of course jumps up and says "I get the shark! I get the shark!" But, alas for him, the children choose by picking slips of paper from a bowl. Shawn doesn't get Great White Shark. A girl named Stacy does. Shawn gets Leopard Seal.

He tries everything he can think of to get Stacy to budge, but she won't. What follows is a little rivalry in which Shawn learns some pretty cool things about leopard seals and Stacy chases him around with her mouth open wide.

At the end of the book, Shawn has decided that seals are pretty cool, too, and also that maybe he wants to get to know Stacy. He piles his 127 shark books in his wagon and goes to see her. The last illustration is sweet, with them in their seal and shark outfits looking at books together.

The illustrations are uncluttered and carry the emotions of the story quite nicely.

Beautiful
Beautiful

Beautiful by Stacy McAnulty

Preschool - Grade 2

I love how Beautiful takes stereotypes about girls and turns them upside down.

In the opening spread, we see five girls hanging out, draping their arms over a pink fence. They are all dressed up with fancy sunglasses, beads, crowns, fans, star wands, and other trinkets. But on the next page, we see them from behind and realize that these are girls with mud patches on their dresses and swords tucked into their belts. "Beautiful girls..." the text tells us "...have the perfect look."

Turn the page, and we are told "Beautiful girls move gracefully." A little series of vignettes shows girls involved in soccer, softball, football, and wheelchair basketball. All through the book, the pronouncements continue while the illustrations provide and different spin than the reader would expect. "Beautiful girls know all about makeup," we are told. And sure enough, the girls do have lots of makeup: pirate makeup. They've drawn on mustaches and beard stubble and are having a swashbuckling time from their cardboard boxes decorated to look like ships.

I can't say enough about the illustrations for this book. They are big enough to share with a crowd, something I particularly like since I present so many story times for children. They are chock full of energy as the girls perform science experiments, play in the pond or mug in front of the fun house mirror. And, they are a diverse, exuberant group comprised of girls from many different backgrounds and of different ability levels.

Over and Under the Pond
Over and Under the Pond

Over and Under the Pond

This book would serve as a great introduction to wetland ecosystems.

A boy and his mother head out in a canoe, and the boy asks his mom what is down there, under the pond. The mom responds, "Under the pond is a whole hidden world of minnows and crayfish, turtles and bullfrogs. We're paddling over them now."

The text goes on to describe a myriad of plants an animals, both over and under the pond: whirligig beetles, brook trout, red-winged blackbirds, moose beaver, herons, minnows, caddis flies, loons, dragonflies, raccoons and ospreys among them.

I always like finding out new information from a children's books, and I learned from this one that dragonfly larvae eat minnows. Who would have thought!

I can imagine reading this book to a class, and then having the children divide up the animals and do a small report on each of them.

In a note, the author talks a little about how the ecosystem works, and then she includes a one-paragraph description for most of the animals and insects she mentions in the book. (She's a former teacher, so you can see why she wanted to add this section.)

The illustrations are clear and realistic, with a variety of blue-green tones that match the feeling of being on a pond in a canoe.

Rain
Rain

Rain by Linda Ashman

Preschool - Grade 2

This book is special to me because I know the author. She used to live close by and would come to do a writing workshop with my elementary writer's group. Lately, she seems to have specialized in stories that are wordless, or have very few words. Rain! has just a few words, but they count for quite a bit.

As the story opens, we see two people looking out their apartment windows and reacting differently to the rain. One is an old man who is frowning; the other is a young boy who is throwing up his hands in glee. On the next page we see the man grumpily putting on his rain gear while the boy is putting on an adorable green frog rain suit. Each of them continues in like manner, the man growing more grumpy and the boy having more fun.

They bump into each other in a bake shop, where the man frowns at the boy for accidentally jostling him. But, when the old fellow forgets his hat, the boy takes it back to him. Thankfully, the old man can't stay grumpy, and he ends up playfully trading hats with the boy. It's a sweet tale, and the charming cut paper illustrations complement the whole theme.

What I Like About Me by Allia Zobel Nolan
What I Like About Me by Allia Zobel Nolan

What I Like About Me!

Preschool - Grade 1

What I Like About Me! has long been one of my favorites to read at story times for kids, and it's been well-received by children and grown-ups alike. It's short (always a plus when you are reading books aloud), and it has bright, bold illustrations which are easy for the audience to see.

In upbeat rhyming verse, the children in this book point out the diverse characteristics they like about themselves. On the first spread, we see three children: a boy and two girls. The boy says, "I like my spiky hair. It's great. When the wind blows, it still stands up straight." The curly-haired girl says that when "skies are misty," her hair "gets nice and twisty." This is an interactive "touch-and-feel" type of book, and each of these characters has filaments of "hair" that readers can feel.

On other pages, different children talk about having freckles, glasses, braces, different foods for lunch, and different shoe sizes. The movable parts include lift the flap and tabs that the reader can pull. The children in my audience like it when I pull the tabs to make one boy's eyebrows tilt up and another's ears wiggle. The last page includes a reflective surface and asks "What is it you like best about YOU?" At this point, I usually take the book around the group and let each child look into this mirror of sorts.

This book has so many of the features of a good read-aloud: short text, fun illustrations, and an affirming message.

Can One Balloon Make an Elephant Fly? by Dan Richards
Can One Balloon Make an Elephant Fly? by Dan Richards

Can One Balloon Make an Elephant Fly?

Preschool - Grade 2

This book serves as a gentle reminder for adults to put down their phones and other electronic gadgets and participate in the learning of their little ones. I don't exactly call people out when I read this to a group, but the parents who've been looking at their phones often put them down when I ask the children why the mom in the story seems so attached to her phone.

Even before we get to the title page, we are treated to a series of scenes showing a diverse group of people watching the animals at the zoo—except for one mom who is on her phone while her child holds a bunch of balloons and looks at the elephant. “Mom?” he asks, as we turn to the title page,“can one balloon make an elephant fly?” Without looking up from her phone, mom answers, “No.” But the child persists. How about two balloons, or three? “Evan, please,” says the mom, a bit annoyed at being interrupted, until she looks up and sees how sad it makes her son that she’s not paying attention. She sees the little toy elephant he has and says, “One balloon is definitely enough to make an elephant fly.”

The next illustration is a full-page beaming little boy, happy to be able to interact with his mother. They walk around to see the different displays and attach a balloon to each little animal figurine. (The boy also slips a balloon to each of the animals they see.) At the end, they release the balloons, and the figurines fly away, presumably to have adventures of their own.

It’s a sweet story about a mother and son, though the environmentalist in me has a little hesitation about balloons as a potential hazard for wildlife. I think I’d talk about that a little with the children after reading the book.


Maybe Something Beautiful by F. Isabel Campoy and Theresa Howell
Maybe Something Beautiful by F. Isabel Campoy and Theresa Howell

Maybe Something Beautiful: How Art Transformed a Neighborhood

Preschool - Grade 2

Maybe Something Beautiful has lovely illustrations which I'm thinking of using as a springboard to showing the children how to create their own community art to display in the library.

The book is based on the true story of artists Rafael and Candice Lopez. They brought the local art community together in East Village near downtown San Diego to imbue the area with colorful art. A little girl named Mira lives in the “heart of a gray city” and loves to “doodle, draw, color, and paint.” She makes art and hands it out to people in the neighborhood as well as taping some of it to the drab walls of her surroundings. “Her city was less gray,” the book tells us, “—but not much.”

Then one day, she meets a man with a “pocket full of paintbrushes." She watches him splash bright colors on the sky and finds out that he’s an artist, a muralist. “I’m an artist, too,” she tells him. He hands her a brush and says, “Then come on!” She joins him in painting a mural, and soon the whole neighborhood is joining in painting the walls, utility boxes, benches, and even decorating the sidewalks with poetry. I especially like showing the children the pictures in the back of the book: real-life photos of children who helped to create the art.

Lola at the Library by Anna McQuinn
Lola at the Library by Anna McQuinn

Lola at the Library

Preschool-Kindergarten

What could be closer to a librarian's heart than this charming story of a young girl who loves all things about going to the library to pick out books?

I love reading Lola at the Library to children because we can talk about how our library has lots of similarities to Lola's library, and also quite a few differences. All the hands in the room go up when I say, "Look, Lola has a backpack just for her books. Do you have a pack or bag that you use?" Children love it when they can tell you about their everyday lives .

In the book, we follow Lola on typical trip to the library where she packs her backpack with books, uses her library card to check them out, attends story time, and ends the day when her mommy reads her a story.

Check for all the Lola books, as well as companion books about her brother, Leo.


Lola Reads to Leo by Anna McQuinn
Lola Reads to Leo by Anna McQuinn

Lola Reads to Leo

Preschool-Kindergarten

Charming little Lola is back in Lola Reads to Leo. This time she is learning how to be a big sister. I love how reading is woven all through this book. At first, Lola’s mother reads her a story about a girl and her new baby brother.Then, after Lola's own baby brother comes along, she gives him a soft book for his crib, tells him stories when he cries, and reads to him in the bath, among other things. At night the whole family ends up with a story book. The illustrations are sweet and enchanting, as always.

After reading this book, I often point out to the parents that we have lots of book at the library that can prepare their child for the birth of a sibling. It's a common type of book that people are looking for, and I appreciate the way McQuinn has her characters involved with books and the library.

Lola Gets a Cat by Anna McQuinn
Lola Gets a Cat by Anna McQuinn

Lola Gets a Cat

If you want to get a group of children started talking, ask them about their pets. In Lola Gets a Cat, little Lola, who has amassed quite a collection of stuffed cats, is ready to get a real cat of her own.

I love how this book walks us matter-of-factly walks us through the process of getting a pet from a shelter. First, Lola and her mother check out books from the library so that she can learn about them. The mention of doing a little research warms the little librarian heart inside of me.

Then, they go to the internet and find out about a shelter to visit. While she is there, Lola finds a gray-striped tabby who seems to choose her. The shelter manager gives her a list of things to do to ease the fear the cat might have when it moves to a new place, and Lola and her parents go shopping and prepare their home to welcome the new arrival.

One nice thing about this story is that Lola realizes her cat isn’t ready to play right away as it adjust to its new surroundings. The other is that she gives her cat the name of an African queen—Makeda.

Rosalind Beardshaw’s illustrations are as adorable as ever. This charming, low-key book would be a perfect read to help any young child get ready for a new pet, even if that pet is not a cat.

Do Not Bring Your Dragon to the Library by Julie Gassman
Do Not Bring Your Dragon to the Library by Julie Gassman

Do Not Bring Your Dragon to the Library

Preschool - Grade 1

Before I read the book Do Not Bring Your Dragon to the Library at story time, I pull out a dragon puppet and ask them if it's a good idea to let dragons come into the library. They are usually split 50/50. Some think the idea is cool, and others foresee problems. We talk a little about what kinds of problems a dragon could cause in a library, and I tell them to listen to the story and see if some of the things they've talked about are mentioned.

I love this book because it is so whimsical, and the illustrations do a great job of getting across the emotions of the dragon and of everyone around her. A librarian explains to a young boy the reasons why it is not a good idea to bring your dragon to the library. Among them: the dragon will take up at least ten spaces at story time, she’ll knock over the book stacks, and (of course) she will set the books on fire. All of these mishaps are illustrated in bright, bold pictures that make this book ideal for sharing with groups, as well as one-on-one.

When the boy begs for the dragon to visit with him, the librarian agrees that the dragon “should not miss the library treasures,” and that the boy can check some books “for her reading pleasure.” (The text is written in the form of rhyming couplets.)

This is a lovely, lively, and fun book.

Ming Goes to School by Deirdre Sullivan
Ming Goes to School by Deirdre Sullivan

Ming Goes to School

Preschool - Grade 1

This sweet book is good to read to little ones to ease that first-day-of-school anxiety. I wish Ming Goes to School had come out before my daughter started school.

On the beginning page, we see Ming holding hands with her father as she walks into the school (which looks like either a preschool or a kindergarten class). The watercolor illustrations show her doing everyday school things along with a diverse group of classmates: waving goodbye to her father, showing her bear at show-and-tell, making sand castles, gluing and glittering, and finally getting up the courage to climb up to the top of the slide.

The text is simple and poetic—as well as being super short for little attention spans. I love the light, wistful illustrations. It’s a lovely, peaceful book with an empowering message.

The Squiggle by Carole Lexa Schaefer
The Squiggle by Carole Lexa Schaefer

The Squiggle

Preschool-Kindergarten

This poetic book has long been one of my favorites because it emphasizes imagination and creativity. In The Squiggle, a preschool class is lined up to follow the teacher when the girl at the end of the line discovers a length of red string. As she waves it in the air, she imagines it to be several things: “the dance of a scaly dragon” or “the path of a circus acrobat” among others. She calls to her class and shows them all the shapes she has learned to make. Illustrator Pierr Morgan’s watercolors interpret the text with a Chinese flair, but the idea for making shapes with a piece of string is so universal that it will speak to all kinds of kids.

When I use this book for story time, I give each child a length of red yarn to create the shapes and patterns in the story. It's a great way to encourage movement and imagination. Another thing I like about this activity is that it brings children and caregivers together, with the grown-ups helping their little ones to form some of the shapes and do the actions.

Love Is by Diane Adams
Love Is by Diane Adams

Love Is by Diane Adams

I was drawn in by charming illustration on the cover of Love Is, and--as a mother with a daughter in college--felt a little wistful by the end.

In the story, a girl finds a solitary duckling in a cityscape that looks quite a bit like the area near Central Park in Manhattan. Adams tells the story in rhyme: "Love is holding something fragile/tiny wings and downy head./Love is noisy midnight feedings/shoe box right beside the bed."

We can't help but sympathize with the girl lying wide-eyed while the duckling quacks loudly in the wee hours of the morning. As any parent knows, the job never eds. The girls feeds the duck, chases it at bath time, cleans up after its messes, and sometimes gets to settle down in front of the TV with a package of sunflower seeds.

Over time, she sees that her little duckling is growing up. She helps it to fly and encourages it to take off with other ducklings. But of course, once her duck is gone, she misses it quite a bit. "Love is missing, reminiscing/wishing things could stay the same" the text tells us as we see the girl drawing pictures of her duck and sadly sitting on the couch with the sunflower seeds.

The book ends on a decidedly cheerier note when the duck comes back to visit in a year--with ducklings of her own.

The illustrations are expressive and have an old-fashioned charm that is sweet, but not saccharine. Claire Keane is the illustrator, and on a hunch, I looked her up on the internet. As I suspected, she is the granddaughter of Bil Keane who created the "Family Circus" cartoon strip. She has studied art in Paris and has worked as visual development artist for several Disney films.

This is a lovely book, and I hope we will see more from this team.


Flower Garden by Eve Bunting
Flower Garden by Eve Bunting

Flower Garden

Preschool - Grade 3

For about 15 years I've been reading Flower Garden to groups whenever our story time theme rolls around to spring or gardens or surprises.

In the story, a young girl and her father buy flowers, a planting box, and soil at a grocery store. Then they take them on the bus until they reach their apartment, a 3rd-floor walk-up in the city. There they assemble a window box and plant the flowers inside. When they get out a cake and start to light the candles, we learn that it is a birthday surprise for the mom, who is just now walking in the door. The last picture shows the family admiring the flower box at sunset, after they’ve eaten most of the cake.

There is so much to like about this book. It introduces suburban and rural children to some aspects of life in the city like taking the bus and living in an apartment. It names the different flowers in the boxes and accurately illustrates them, introducing the children to some new vocabulary. The illustrations are luminous. Children love to spot the family's cat in several scenes. I encourage the children figure out the surprise of the story and predict what will happen when the mother comes in the room, and I take every opportunity I can to share this lovely book with groups of children.

The Thing Lou Couldn't Do by Ashley Spires
The Thing Lou Couldn't Do by Ashley Spires

The Thing Lou Couldn’t Do by Ashley Spires

Children’s books usually telegraph exactly where they are going, but this book is a little different, providing a twist that gives children a more realistic outlook on the effort involved in doing many things that they aspire to.

At the beginning we meet a girl with some self-confidence and fearless attitude who plays with a group of friends who are brave adventurers. They run fast, they build forts out of cushions, and pretend they are wild animal rescuers. But, when they decide to climb a tree, Lou comes across the thing she can’t do. She’s afraid of heights.

I like the way the narrator tells the story here. Her friends want to climb the tree and pretend it’s a pirate ship. One friend tells her “It will be an adventure!” Then, we are told “Lou loves adventures, but this adventure is UP. She likes her adventures to be DOWN.”

From there, you pretty much know how the story is going to play out. After a lot of procrastinating, Lou screws up her pirate courage and decides to join her friends on the tree. The scene pulls in tight as Lou climbs up, grunting along the way. “She must be nearly there…” the narrator tells us, but then the scene pulls out and Lou is actually only about two feet of the ground. She falls with a thud. See? I told you it had a twist. Normally in these books, when children get brave enough to do something, they have no trouble pulling of the feat, whatever it is.

But this book shows us it’s not as simple as that. After Lou falls, the text says “She knew it. She CAN’T climb.” Don’t worry, though. This is not a book about giving up. Turn the page and the text says “NOT YET, anyway.” Lou is now brave enough to climb, but she hasn’t built up the muscles or the technique. “She’ll be back,” we are told. “Maybe even tomorrow.” Turn the page, and we see Lou once again trying to climb up the trunk of the tree.

The illustrations have a modern, 3-D look to them, and they capture the emotions of Lou and her friends quite well.

Over and Under the Pond
Over and Under the Pond

Over and Under the Pond

This book would serve as a great introduction to wetland ecosystems.

A boy and his mother head out in a canoe, and the boy asks his mom what is down there, under the pond. The mom responds, "Under the pond is a whole hidden world of minnows and crayfish, turtles and bullfrogs. We're paddling over them now."

The text goes on to describe a myriad of plants an animals, both over and under the pond: whirligig beetles, brook trout, red-winged blackbirds, moose beaver, herons, minnows, caddis flies, loons, dragonflies, raccoons and ospreys among them. I always like finding out new information from a children's books, and I learned from this one that dragonfly larvae eat minnows. Who would have thought!

I can imagine reading this book to a class, and then having the children divide up the animals and do a small report on each of them.

In a note, the author talks a little about how the ecosystem works, and then she includes a one-paragraph description for most of the animals and insects she mentions in the book. (She's a former teacher, so you can see why she wanted to add this section.)

The illustrations are clear and realistic, with a variety of blue-green tones that match the feeling of being on a pond in a canoe.

Lucia the Luchadora
Lucia the Luchadora

Lucia the Luchadora

Lucia runs into an obstacle familiar to lots of girls on the playground; when she tries to join in with the boys who are pretending to be superheroes, they tell her “Girls can be superheroes! Girls are just made of sugar and spice and everything nice!”

Lucia, of course doesn’t feel sweet or nice when she hears that. She feels mad, “Spicy mad. KA-POW kind of mad!” It is up to her abuela, her grandmother, to tell her about the tradition of luchadoras, women who participated in the theatrical and acrobatic style of wrestling, Lucha Libre, which is popular in Mexico. Abuela has her shiny cape and silver mask from her own days of being a luchadora and she gives them to Lucia, explain that a luchadora is agile, brave, and fights for what is right.

When Lucia wears her outfit to the playground the next day, she starts a trend and inspires everyone else to come in their own costumes. One day, a luchadora comes in a very pink and sparkly outfit and gets the same line from the boys that a girl can’t be one of them. Just then, Lucia rescues a dog from the tall, twisty slide and unmasks herself, showing that one of the most adventurous and bravest of them is a girl.

The illustrations are colorful and vibrant and capture the Lucha Libre spirit.


Lily's Cat Mask
Lily's Cat Mask

Lily’s Cat Mask

This is a sweet little book that is one of the few to show a father-daughter interaction.

Little Lily is unsure about going to school for the first time until her father lets her pick out a cat mask to wear. Shy Lily feels braver when she gets to face life from behind her mask, and she participates in lots of things as a cat.

But when she goes to school, the teacher finds the mask a distraction and only lets her wear it at recess. Lily learns to cope, and she is especially happy when Halloween rolls around and she can wear her cat mask during school. She discovers that a boy in her school has a cat mask of his own.


 Goodbye Summer, Hello Autumn
Goodbye Summer, Hello Autumn

Goodbye Summer, Hello Autumn

When I read to groups of children, I always like to have a book that explains the whole concept, and Goodbye Summer, Hello Autumn is a good introduction for preschoolers on how the seasons change. At the beginning, a girl stands on her porch and says, "Hello, late summer morning." As she walks along in the woods, she says "Hello" to everything she meets, and they respond letting her know what they are doing or how they are changing. When she says, "Hello, playful foxes and singing blue jays," they respond "Hello! We are busy looking for food. Some of us are heading south to our winter homes." Things move along similarly as she greets the butterflies , the trees, the chipmunks, the clouds, the leaves, and the sun. At the end, as night falls, the girls says "Goodbye summer..." and after we see a two-page spread of early morning, she is sitting on her porch saying "Hello, autumn."

The illustrations are quite lovely, watercolors that capture the light of each season. The writing is a little less artful, but still gets the message across well.

Quiet! by Kate Alizadeh
Quiet! by Kate Alizadeh

Quiet! by Kate Alizadeh

This book has a simple premise, but it's a great book to help children notice their surroundings. It's also a very nice introduction to onomatopoeia.

At the beginning, a young girl is peeking through the door with her finger to her lips. "Sssh!" she says. "Listen, what's that noise?" We then follow her through her house: the kitchen, with the "bubbling of the pan and the humming of the fridge"; the living room, with the babbling or the TV and the purring of the cat; the bathroom with the splashing of the bathwater and the squeaking of the rubber duck--and so on.

In a change from the usual story line, the girl interacts with her dad, who is the one who blows her a goodnight kiss at the end of the night.

The illustrations are large and colorful, making it great to use with a group as well as one-on-one.

Rulers of the Playground
Rulers of the Playground

Rulers of the Playground

I like this book for the way it portrays the power struggles that seem to happen on every playground.

One morning, a boy declares himself ruler of the playground and all the children agree to obey him because his "kingdom" has slides. But one feisty girl doesn't like this idea and claims one side of the playground as her queendom. The kids agree to obey her because her side has swings.

Of course, the two of them get way too bossy, and all the other children decide to go and play by themselves in a field, rather than submit to the whims of the two. "Conquering is complicated," says the boy. "Yeah." says the girl, "Super complicated." In a maybe-too-easy resolution, they both agree to give up their crowns and say they are done conquering.

The illustrations have a charming retro-prep-school look to them and complement the story well.

Excellent Ed
Excellent Ed

Excellent Ed

This is a fun story about a dog who wants to find a way of being "excellent" in his human (African-American) family. It turns out that all the children in the family are excellent at something--whether is is playing soccer, doing math, or making cupcakes.

In a series of episodes with some humorous word play, Ed finds something he's good at, only to find that the children are seemingly better. For instance, Ed decides he's good at breaking stuff, and he makes a mess of the kitchen to demonstrate. Then, one of the girls zooms in and yells "I broke the record fro most soccer goals in a season!" That leaves to poor Ed to conclude he's not the best at breaking things.

Older children will love the dog's misunderstandings and be eager to correct him. Eventually, Ed does figure out that he's good at many things like cleaning up the food dropped on the floor or welcoming everyone home.

The illustrations are warm and tender.

Be a Star, Wonder Woman
Be a Star, Wonder Woman

Be a Star, Wonder Woman

Oftentimes, books that trade on the popularity of a movie are quick jobs that don't have much kid appeal beyond the movie they tout. But, this one is different. For one thing, it seems to understand the need for good art and shorter text. For another, it's a nice exploration of how a girl can be a "Wonder Woman" in her own neighborhoood.

At the beginning, a little girl is being walked to school by her father. At the same time, we see Wonder Woman standing at the top of a building, ready for her day. The text reads "At dawn, a new day begins. New challenges await." As the story progresses, Wonder Woman solves problems in her world (dragons have seemingly attacked the city) and the girl solves problems in hers (two children fighting over who gets to play with the stuffed dragon.) The girl overcomes obstacles like climbing a rope ladder and figuring out how to draw a picture. (And, I saw a girl in a head scarf among her friends.)

All in all, it's a cute concept, and the illustrations will draw children in to the world of this wide-eyed girl.

One Day in the Eucalyptus, Eucalyptus Tree
One Day in the Eucalyptus, Eucalyptus Tree

One Day in the Eucalyptus, Eucalyptus Tree

This is the kind of book that just begs to be read aloud, with its musical use of language and its folk-tale structure, complete with a trickster who outsmarts a dangerous animal. On the first two-page spread we see a boy with a pinwheel walking along in the jungle, unaware that a large snake is looking at him from the treetop. The text reads, "One day in the leaves of the eucalyptus tree hung a scare in the air where no eye could see, when along skipped a boy with a whirly-twirly toy, to the shade of the eucalyptus, eucalyptus tree."

The snake slides down and swallows the boy whole, but we see him in the deep dark belly saying, "I'll bet that you're still very hungry and there's more you can eat." The snake is convinced, and goes on to swallow a bird, a cat, a sloth, an ape, a bear, and some bees. The snake is quite full, but the boy urges to him to eat more, and when the snake stretches to swallow a piece of fruit and a fly, it's too much. Everything comes out with a gurgle-gurgle and a belch.

The story behind the story is also quite interesting. The author is a visually-impaired writer who was inspired to write this story during the night shift as a janitor at a preschool. The animals in the story were the odd assortment of animals kept on a shelf of the school.

The illustrator, who has traveled the word in search of fascinating animals, brings a bright, folk-inspired liveliness to the illustrations.

The New Small Person
The New Small Person

The New Small Person

Lauren Child has quite a way with voice and dialogue for children, and she doesn't disappoint here. She describes to a T what it's like to be the only, older child. Elmore Green is such a boy. He has his room to himself and has his own TV set. No one ever changes the channel. Also, "He could line up all his precious things on the floor and no one moved them ONE INCH."

But, as will happen with older children, a new small person came along--a little brother. Elmore notices that his parents seem to like the new small person a little bit more. This new person wants to watch different things on TV and knocks his things over. And to top it off "Everyone said Elmore could NOT be angry because the small person was ONLY small."

Now, of course, we all know that the older brother has to come to some sort of understanding and, hopefully, affection for little brother, and I think the author does it in an especially touching way. The little brother is able to soothe his big brother after a bad dream "when the scaries were around," and also contributes tot he game when Elmore wants to line up all his things on the steps. "It felt good to have someone there who understood why a long line of things was SO special."

Child's quirky illustrations add just the right note of fun to this story about learning to live with someone else in the house.

Normal Norman
Normal Norman

Normal Norman

You have to love this humorous book about a girl, a junior scientist, who is giving us a presentation. Her assignment is to "clearly define the word NORMAL" during her talk. To demonstrate the word normal, she uses a gorilla (or is it an orangutan?) named Norman and shows how he's an average creature with a normal head, ears, and paws. Norman, however, doesn't look all that happy to be a demonstration specimen, and on the next page he does something decidedly not normal and starts eating a pizza.

Things get wackier from there, as Norman speaks, objecting to the girl peeling a banana. "Iiiiii-eeee!" he screams. "You're ripping off that poor creature's skin!" When the girl wants to show how normally he sleeps, Norman crawls into a bunk bed and wants his stuffed animal.

As one thing after another goes wrong, the girl despairs because she's failed at her mission. "I will never be asked to narrate a book again!" she cries. Norman takes pity on her and takes her to his friends, jungle animals who are engaged in roller skating, playing horns and the like. In an affirmation of self-expression, the head scientist write of the results:" 'Normal' is impossible to define."

Henry Wants More!
Henry Wants More!

Henry Wants More!

I was especially interested in this charming little book because I knew the author when she lived in Colorado. She is a friendly and charming person who specializes in tender books that feature rhyming in the text.

Families that include toddlers will find little Henry familiar: no matter how much the members of the family play with him, he always wants to play more. Papa lifts him high above his head, grandma plays piano for him, sister plays peek-a-boo and patty-cake, on and on until finally little Henry tires out and falls asleep. At the end, there is a little twist because it turns out that Mama wants more: another kiss for her little Henry.

The illustrator, Brooke Boynton Hughes, chose to illustrate a multiracial family. Dad and grandma are Caucasian and Mom is African-American. It’s nice to see multiracial families turning up more and more in sweet books like this.

Into the Snow
Into the Snow

Into the Snow

Is there anything more fun for a kid than wandering out to play in the snow? In this exuberant book, a young boy bundles up, gets his sled, and goes out into what looks like a late spring snow. (I see blossoms on the trees, so I'm thinking it takes place in April or May.) The boy describes how the snow feels, breaks off an icicle, and flies down the hill on his sled before heading inside for some hot chocolate. The text is brief and evocative, but what really sells this book are the illustrations. You can almost feel the thick, wet snow as you turn the pages.

Who Likes Rain
Who Likes Rain

Who Likes Rain?

This small-format book has lots of onomatopoeia in its poetic text. "Who wants rain?" a little girl asks. "Who needs April showers? I know who...The trees and the flowers." She describes how raindrops hit the awning, "Ping-ping-ping" and how it gurgles down the spout. The illustrations are charming, and together with the text, it captures perfectly the atmosphere of a young child exploring in the rain.


 Summer Days and Nights
Summer Days and Nights

Summer Days and Nights

This book chronicles the wonders of an ordinary day from the viewpoint of a small girl. In rhyming couplets, she tells us how she goes hunting for butterflies, stops to drink lemonade, plays hide-and-seek, goes for a picnic, and sees an owl and fireflies at night. The small format makes this a nice book to share with a little one on your lap, and the illustrations of the girl and her family are adorable.


Soup Day
Soup Day

Soup Day

"Today is soup day," a young girl tells us. We can see it is snowing as she and her mother head to the market. She describes how they pick out the vegetables , chop them up and cook them in a pot. While the soup is simmering, the girl and her mother play together, then add the pasta, and clean up the house in preparation for the dad to get home and share the meal. The collage illustrations combine different patterned papers, and are bright, simple and colorful. At the end, we get a recipe for "Snowy Day Vegetable Soup" which includes onions, carrots, potatoes, zucchini, mushrooms, pasta and spices.

I appreciate this book because my daughter is a soup-lover who would have eaten it for breakfast every day if we had had it. And why not? It can come in a variety of flavors and warms you up on a cold winter morning. It also shows a family with an Asian girl and Caucasian parents.


Green Pants by Kenneth Draegel

Green Pants by Kenneth Draegel
Green Pants by Kenneth Draegel

Almost every parent has had at least one child who fixates on a certain items of clothing. My daughter had a 3-year stage in which she only wanted to wear red dresses.

In Green Pants a boy named Jameson has a similar focus on green pants. When he wears them, he feels he can do anything: dunk, dive, dance.

Then, one day, his cousin Armando drops by with his fiancée and asks Jameson if he will be the ring-bearer at their wedding. Jameson is all in until he learns he’ll have to wear a tuxedo to the occasion, complete with black pants.

He is so conflicted about wearing pants of a different color that he shows up at the wedding undecided, wearing green pants but carrying the black pants with him. He continues to agonize until the bride-to-be pops out, smiles, and tells him, “I’m so glad you’re here! I’ll see you inside.”

Jameson shows up at the wedding, right on cue, wearing the black pants. He poses nicely for photos and behaves impeccable during the dinner. But when the dancing starts, the green pants appear once again, and James is free to express his individuality.

Besides being a fun story, this book could also nudge children towards being more accepting of wearing different clothing for special occasions.

Squeak, Rumble, Whomp! Whomp! Whomp! By Wynton Marsalis
Squeak, Rumble, Whomp! Whomp! Whomp! By Wynton Marsalis

Squeak, Rumble, Whomp! Whomp! Whomp!

This would be a nice book to read before doing a musical activity with a group of children. I could see leading an activity by bringing out a variety of musical instruments for the kids to play to see if they could recreate some of the sound Marsalis includes in Squeak, Rumble, Whomp! Whomp! Whomp!

You would expect a book by Wynton Marsalis to feature the trumpet, and it certainly does feature a trumpet-playing boy. But, as its subtitle tells us, this is a “sonic adventure.” The text begins, “Our back door squeaks, a nosy mouse eeks! It’s also how my sister’s saxophone sometimes speee….eeaks.” All through the book, we are invited to explore how the sounds of everyday life and the sounds of musical instruments intersect.

This is a joyful rhythmic book, and the illustrations respond, making this a fun book to read to a child.


Ring Bearer
Ring Bearer

The Ring Bearer by Floyd Cooper

We often think of childhood as an idyllic time free of worries, but if we are being honest when we remember, we realize that kids are often anxious about a number of things.

In The Ring Bearer, a boy named Jackson has lots of worries on the eve of his mother’s marriage. His long term worries include wondering what it will be like to call the new man, “Dad,” and how he’ll adjust to having a new little sister to share things with. He knows that things won’t be the same.

His short-term worry is that he’ll trip and drop the rings he is carrying as the ring-bearer for his mom’s wedding. Hi new step-dad drops by and tries to cheer him up, but he’s still worried. Then his grandpop shows him how to walk down the aisle slow and steady. Jackson is still worried.

As he walks with his new sister, the flower girl, she trips on the step and falls backward. Jackson catches her before she falls to the ground and everyone in the wedding cheers for him. When his mom has finished walking the aisle, she whispers to him, “You’re a great big brother, Jack. Sophie is lucky to have you around.”

Jackson has a newfound confidence, and he knows he doesn’t need to be so nervous when important jobs come to him.

Cooper has won Coretta Scott King awards for his illustrations, and he poignantly brings to life a joyous—but nerve-wracking—day in a young boy’s life.

Sunday Shopping by Sally Derby
Sunday Shopping by Sally Derby

Sunday Shopping

Sunday Shopping describes an inventive game that a girl plays with her grandmother: every Sunday they gather ads from the Sunday paper and a purse full of monopoly money, and then they go “shopping.”

They peruse the advertisements for things they would like to buy, cut them out, and pay for the items using their money. Grandma decides to get a big ham to cook and the girl chooses a room full of fine furniture.

Later on, the girl picks out a jewelry box that will house her treasured necklace. It turns out the girl’s mother is in the army, and on the day she left, she gave the girl a heart locket. At the end, the girl cuts out a bouquet of flowers and places them on the nightstand near a picture of her mother for her grandmother to find the next morning.

Besides being a story about coping with absence, this story shows an intergenerational interaction that we always want to see with our families. The grandmother has found a way to engage her granddaughter in lots of meaningful conversations, helped her develop her math skills, and you could also argue that she is teaching her a bit about what things cost and money management. What a wonderful concept for a book!

I can see a follow up activity that involves giving children a set of ads and encouraging them to do their own Sunday Shopping.

Rosa's Very Big Job by Ellen Mayer
Rosa's Very Big Job by Ellen Mayer

Rosa's Very Big Job

Young children often bask in the accomplishment of being a good helper, but sometimes they don't know how to go about helping the grown-ups in their lives. In Rosa's Very Big Job, tlittle Rosa decides that she and her grandfather can help by putting away the laundry.

When I read this book, I knew that children would love the dynamic between the girl and her grandfather. He complains that it's hard to carry everything, to keep it folded, and to keep jackets from sliding off their hangers. Rosa is always ready with advice for her grandfather, and together they get all the laundry done.

Then, Rosa shifts into imagination mode, and the two of them climb into the laundry basket for adventures, pretending they are in a boat at sea. They brave big waves and catch an "enormous fish" (actually a sock) at Rosa's urging. When mama comes home, she is surprised to find the laundry finished. Rosa fills her in on all their adventures.

I like to point out to parents that the end note talks about how the story can increase a child's vocabulary. Mayer has given grandpa some pretty big words to use -- difficult, enormous, exhausted,, etc. and a child can learn them in context in a story like this.

Twenty Yawns by Jane Smiley
Twenty Yawns by Jane Smiley

Twenty Yawns

Preschool - Grade 1

This is definitely a book that you can read when you are trying to get your kid to sleep. Twenty yawns are placed throughout the book, most of them towards the ends when presumably your little one’s eyes will be getting heavy. This book made me feel sleepy when I was previewing it in the middle of the day.

I was especially interested in this book because the parents are portrayed as an interracial couple, something you still don't see very much in the illustrations of children's books.

In the story, Lucy and her parents spend a fun day at the beach digging sand castles, flying kites, and rolling on the dunes. They make an early bedtime of it, but Lucy awakens and decides she needs her bear, Molasses, to comfort her. When she gets downstairs, she decides she needs to take all her stuffed animals with her and settles down among them. She yawns quite often in the process. Castillo’s illustrations are gentle and have a vintage feel to them.

Max Speed by Stephen Shaskan
Max Speed by Stephen Shaskan

Max Speed by Stephen Shaskan

If you have a kid who likes vehicles, volcanoes, or sharks, this short little story could be a good fit. It reminds me a little of the "good news/bad news" books for kids. In those, you'd have some bad news (hero had to jump out of a flying plane), then some good news (he landed on a haystack), then some bad news again (there was a pitchfork in the haystack.)

When the story begins, a young boy has just finished cleaning his room and is ready for some adventure. Sharp-eyed kids will see that his adventure includes all of the toys neatly stored on his shelves. He zooms off in a red car, and soon enough encounters a river of hot lava. Not to worry, though, because he has a jet pack to shoot him over that peril, but when said pack goes kaput, he fortunately has a parachute to save him. Things continue in like fashion with a shark, until Max is able to get away and faces one final test: a combination lock to get him home. Spoiler alert, the combination is H-O-M-E, and he arrives at home to see his mom dressed for adventure and ready to go.

This book is fun to read aloud because it encourages making lots of sounds. The bright and lively illustrations make it good for sharing with a group.

Never Ask a Dinosaur to Dinner by Gareth Edwards & Guy Parker-Rees
Never Ask a Dinosaur to Dinner by Gareth Edwards & Guy Parker-Rees

Never Ask a Dinosaur to Dinner

Kindergarten - Grade 3

I’ve heard publishers say they don’t want authors to submit picture books texts that rhyme, and yet so many of the books that come out are written in rhyme. I think that rhyme is very technically difficult to do and new authors often come up with unnatural, forced rhyme. But in Never Ask a Dinosaur to Dinner, Edwards managed to be both natural and extremely clever with the turns of phrase he uses in this book. I have a great time reading this one to kids.

The premise is to give all kinds of practical advice about the consequences of having large (and usually) dangerous animals join you in your evening routine. Thus, “Never ask a dinosaur to dinner…don’t share your toothbrush with a shark…etc.” One of my favorite suggestions is “…don’t let a barn owl in your bed. Because the first thing that you’ll learn’ll/Be a barn owl is nocturnal/She will hunt for mice and hoot all night/And leave your bed a dreadful sight!” There is quite a bit to learn about animal habits and vocabulary, all wrapped up in a humorous package that is a delight to read aloud. Parker-Rees’s big and exuberant illustrations complete the whole feel of the story wonderfully.

The Fintastic Fishsitter
The Fintastic Fishsitter

The Fintastic Fishsitter by Mo O'Hara

I really like this entry into the "Big Fat Zombie Goldfish Adventure" series because it shows a girl who is strong, assured, and knows what she is doing.

The story starts with a boy named Tom who introduces us to his best friend, Pradeep, who lives next door. They have asked Pradeep's little sister Sami to look after their zombie goldfish. They warn her that there is also a vampire kitten in the house, and she has to keep the kitten away from the goldfish.

The text never breaks tone, even though it's dealing with two outrageous pets. I had to smile when I read the directions the two boys left for Sami, including "Zombie goldfish only eat green food" (moldy Brussels sprouts being a prime example) and "Watch out for Frankie's eyes - he can hypnotize you."

Sami takes her fish-sitting responsibilities seriously and starts drawing up a "Fishy Protection Zone with booby traps." But, the kitten is super sneaky and a master of disguise and she sneaks in to attack the fish. Sami uses her "best cross mom voice" to get the kitten to put down the fish, but the vampire kitty turns on the charm and convinces Sami to let them play together.

It turns out they are incapable of being nice to each other, so Sami--like so many frustrated parents--decides she's in charge and makes them play HER game which involves frilly outfits and a baby buggy. The unhappy pets are quiet when the boys return, earning her extra scoops of ice cream.

The colorful illustrations have a bit of a CGI look and complement the story nicely.

How To by Julie Morstad
How To by Julie Morstad

How To

Preschool – Grade 2

When I first took a look at How To, I was charmed by the wistful drawings Morstad uses to illustrate her unconventional "How To" book. As I read it, I learned that it's not really a book of directions at all, but rather an exercise in imagination and interpreting things from a different perspective.

On the first page we see the phrase "how to go fast," along with a diverse group of children who are riding piggyback, running with fairy wings, riding a scooter, or walking on stilts as they cross the page. In a series of 2-page spreads, we see other how-to's illustrated. "How to see the wind": the children are flying kites. "How to make new friends": a child is drawing stick figures on the blacktop with chalk. "How to wash your socks": a group of children is playing in a (clean) puddle with their socks on.

It's a short, quiet book, and very artistic. I don't know if it was the effect the artist was going for, but the children remind me a little bit of winsome French mimes. They have delicate features and small smiles as they go about their activities.

Mary Had a Little Glam by Tammi Sauer
Mary Had a Little Glam by Tammi Sauer

Mary Had a Little Glam

Kindergarten-Grade 2

I had to smile when I read this book because the main character is a lot like my daughter. She loved the sparkle and the nail polish and the fancy accessories, but she didn't let all the fanciness get in her way when it was time for recess. Anyone who's seen a kid drag her feather boa along in the dust when it was time to play outside knows what I'm talking about.

In Mary Had a Little Glam, Mary is a fashion-forward elementary-schooler who accessorizes with all sorts of glitz and glam (including an adorable little lamb purse) and heads off to school. When she meets the other children in her class (cleverly dressed as an assortment of nursery rhyme characters), she offers them a little more pizzazz in the form of hats, trim, beads, feather boas, and all manner of fanciness.

However, when it’s time to go out to the playground, she and the other kids realize that they are “dressed all wrong for this” and toss the glam aside to go on the swings, hula hoop, play in mud puddles, and all the other delights a playground has to offer. The illustrations are big, colorful, and joyous.

Little Humans by Brandon Stanton
Little Humans by Brandon Stanton

Little Humans

Preschool - Grade 3

I have loved the “Human of New York” project which is a collection of photographs of New Yorkers, accompanied by excerpts from interviews with the subjects.

In this book, Stanton focuses on children going about their days, and I was glad to see him continue the excellent photography he uses in his adult series. We see bike riders, hockey players, bundled-up toddlers, sledders, bass players, and all kinds of adorable and poignant pictures of children drawn from the wide variety of cultures who live together in New York City. I paged through the photos several times. It's really interesting how much you can learn about children just by looking at a photo of them doing something they love.

Stanton pairs the photography with a short prose poem that makes this book wonderful for sharing one-on-one or with a group.

Zoo Day by Anne Rockwell
Zoo Day by Anne Rockwell

Zoo Day

Zoo Day is billed as a “My First Experience Book,” a book that will give a child an idea what to expect when they take a trip to the zoo. As such, it’s pretty matter-of-fact and has nice big illustrations to show children some of the typical things they will probably come across.

The family, consisting of a mother, father, son, and daughter, start by buying tickets and a bag of popcorn to share. Next, a two-page spread shows a simply map they can use to navigate the place. The narrator admits that he holds his father’s hand tightly when he hears the sounds of the animals because “the roars make me a little nervous.”

The family then visits monkeys, elephants, giraffes, gorillas, lions, reptiles, polar bears, sea lions, and parrots (which they get to feed.)

I like the fact that the whole family is together and that the pictures aim for realism. It’s a lovely book for introducing children to a fun family outing.

Blocks by Irene Dickson
Blocks by Irene Dickson

Blocks

Preschool - Kindergarten

It seems you can't get too many books about sharing, and I was happy when I came across this one that shows a diverse group of kids dealing with such a common struggle.

A girl has red blocks, and a boy has blue blocks which they use to build respective towers. But after a while, they start to fight over one of the blocks, and in the process, they knock both of their buildings down. They end up learning to cooperate and make a building with both red and blue blocks.

It looks like they've managed to solve their problem just fine, until a new guy with green blocks shows up. The book has an open-ended finish, providing an opportunity to talk with children about what the three characters should do.

I love the big, expressive illustrations that have a bit of an old-fashioned feel.

Tap Tap Boom Boom by Elizabeth Bluemle
Tap Tap Boom Boom by Elizabeth Bluemle

Tap Tap Boom Boom

Preschool - Grade 3

I've always liked illustrator Brian Karas' work, and I was happy when I saw this book come into the library.

As its title suggests, this is a book that uses onomatopoeia to evoke the sound and feeling of a thunderstorm in the city. Once the rain, lightning and thunder start, a diverse group of people head to the subway station for shelter: boy scouts, construction workers, basketball players, dog walkers, kids and grownups. There, they share umbrellas and pizza and listen to music. In the words of the book, “The storm above makes friends of strangers.” It’s a fun story all in all, and Karas’ artwork fits it perfectly.

I'm going to share with you a little movement and imagination activity I do with a group of kids after reading a book about rainstorms. First, you tell the children "We're going to make a rainstorm." Then, you have the children rub their hands together and listen to the quiet sound they make. It sounds like just a few light raindrops falling on the sidewalk. Then, ask them to clap slowly (or snap, if they're older). That is the sound of a few big raindrops falling on the sidewalk. Then, you have them pat their thighs slowly at first, then faster and faster. The raindrops are coming faster and faster. As they are making the raindrop sound, I have them blow like the wind, make lightning sounds (Ksh! Ksh!) and thunder (Boom! Boom!) It's a wild thunderstorm! Then, you can have the kids start to quiet it down--less wind, fewer raindrops. Finally, you're back to the shhh sound of hands rubbing together. Then, at the end, I tell them that the clouds part, the sun comes out, and I have them all make put their hands above their heads to make an arch. It's a rainbow!

This activity works especially well for this book because the text includes so much onomatopoeia, which the activity reinforces.

Little Bitty Friends by Elizabeth McPike
Little Bitty Friends by Elizabeth McPike

Little Bitty Friends

Preschool - Grade 1

I like to read this book to story time groups once the weather starts to get warm in the spring. Children are amazingly observant, and they are curious about all the little creatures they see stirring on the ground.

This book is a celebration of nature that children can come across in their own back yards. The illustrations are just precious and show a diverse group of children encountering ants, caterpillars, buttercups, snails, and all manner of things in the outdoors. The rhyming text is short, a good match for little ones’ attention spans.

Be Who You Are by Todd Parr
Be Who You Are by Todd Parr

Be Who You Are

In some ways it’s kind of strange to put a Todd Parr book in an everyday diversity list because his people aren’t usually from a recognizable culture. He specializes in childlike drawings of characters with circle heads and simple bodies—sort of like a stick figure with a little more meat on the bones. His people are literally purple, green, and orange, along with skin tones.

Still, the message in his books is one of diversity and self-esteem. In this one, he encourages people, “Be who you are. Be old. Be young. Be a different color. Wear everything you need to be you.” On this page, we see people wearing a shirt with polka dots, a pink boa, a scalloped dress, a striped hat, a big curly hairdo, and even a robot showing off his best.

When we come to the page that says “Speak your language,” we see a boy saying “Hola,” a girl signing “love” a dog saying “Hello,” and a dog saying “Meow.”

Parr also encourages children to share their feelings, try new things, and be confident.

This nice thing about this book is that you can encourage children to draw their own pictures, which will look much like the pictures Parr has given them in this latest self-esteem enhancing book.

Everyday Diversity Books for Children in Early Elementary Grades

This second section includes titles that have a story that is a little more in depth and are appropriate for children ages 6-8.

In Plain Sight by Richard Jackson
In Plain Sight by Richard Jackson

In Plain Sight

Kindergarten - Grade 3

In Plain Sight is a good book to read with a small group, and would be an especially good read-aloud one on one. Each item that the grandfather mentions in the book is cleverly hidden "in plain sight." I spent about half an hour with this book when I first read it, trying to figure out where all the items were, and I'm thinking that kids would get a kick out of searching to find the items before turning the page.

The story, illustrated by the renowned Jerry Pinkney, is a tender and playful rendition of a special game between a young girl and her grandfather. At the beginning, we read “Sophie lives with Mama and Daddy and Grandpa, who lives by the window.” From the illustration, we see that Grandpa is wheelchair-bound and that he likes to sit by the window, read the newspaper, and wave to the children as they get off the school bus. Every day, Sophie comes to visit him, and every day he tells her he has “lost” a variety of everyday items like a paper clip or a rubber band. And every day, Sophie helps to find the item hidden somewhere in plain sight. The paper clip might be clipped to a hat, or the rubber band might be stretched around a football. Pinkney’s illustrations invite the reader to play along and find the item before Sophie does.

At the end of the book, Sophie turns the tables on her grandfather and hides behind the curtain so that he can find her when he wakes up from his nap. It’s a touching, simple story, and Pinkney’s illustrations portray such detail and depth of feeling that children can look at them for quite a while, learning more about Grandpa and his life in the process.

I Got the Rhythm by Connie Schofield-Morrison
I Got the Rhythm by Connie Schofield-Morrison

I Got the Rhythm

Preschool-Grade 2

I like to read I Got the Rhythm to a group of kids to get them moving.

A girl walking down the street starts to feel the rhythm in her head “think think,” sees it with her eyes “blink blink,” feels it with her hands “clap clap,” and so on. The text is short, and you can encourage the children to join in doing the same moves the girl does. The illustrations are bright and joyful.

I pair this book with the song “Doctor Knickerbocker” for group presentations, since the song follows a similar format.

City Shapes by Diana Murray
City Shapes by Diana Murray

City Shapes

Preschool-Grade 2

After my family visited New York City last summer, I was pleased to find a book like City Shapes which reflects an urban child's landscape while reinforcing the idea of finding shapes in our surroundings.

The mixed-media collages that make up this book show a variety of city scenes: the rectangles in city buildings, the triangular flags at the outdoor market, the circular drums in a drum circle. The young girl who uses her spy glass and serves as tour guide is based on artist Bryan Collier’s 4-year-old daughter. The author moved to New York City from the Ukraine at the age of two and often took “hikes” around the city, going from Midtown down to Chinatown and back. The book contains a nice variety of textures and a diverse group of people for the main character to meet as she explores the city.

Dear Dragon by Josh Funk
Dear Dragon by Josh Funk

Dear Dragon

Oh my goodness, but this would be a great way to start a writing and/or pen pal unit!

Dear Dragon pulls children in with some sly humor. A boy’s teacher tells the class that they will be combining their poetry and pen pal units and write letters in rhyme to another class. A dragon teacher is shown telling his little class of dragons the same thing.

And that is how “Blaise Dragomir” and “George Slair” (get the puns?) become pen pals.

Children will love being in on the joke when the dragon tells the boy that his favorite sport is skydiving and that his father won a local fire-breathing contest. Each two-page spread shows how the pen pal is imagining something, and how it really happened. While the boy is imagining his pen pal as a boy who is diving with a parachute, we see the dragon soaring from the top of a rock cliff.

When the pen pals meet at a picnic, they at first seem taken aback, but then do a high five and decide it’s the coolest thing ever.

It’s a fun story, and the illustrations portray the humor and action nicely.

The Summer Nick Taught His Cats to Read by Curtis Manley
The Summer Nick Taught His Cats to Read by Curtis Manley

The Summer Nick Taught His Cats to Read

Kindergarten-Grade 3

Any one of us who has lived with cats can't help but chuckle a little over the personalities of the two cats in this wry little picture book.

When Nick decides to share his love of reading with his cats Verne and Stevenson, they are unimpressed, as cats will be. Then, one day Verne the cat discovers there are books about fish, and he becomes very interested in them. It’s charming to see Nick and Verne do many of the shared activities that we want our students in classes to do: talk about the books they like, check out books from the library, and act out favorite scenes in stories they read together. The only thing that blunts their happiness is that the other cat, Stevenson, refuses to join in. But then one day Nick and Verne discover Stevenson’s drawings of pirates and write a story to go along with them. Stevenson likes the story and begins to see the value of books, though he can still be a grump sometimes.

This is a wonderful book to share with children just starting to read. I think it would also be a great introduction to reading and writing activities in a classroom, since Nick and Verne find so many follow up activities to the stories they read. The watercolor illustrations add a light and whimsical touch.

By Day, By Night by Amy Gibson
By Day, By Night by Amy Gibson

By Day, By Night

Kindergarten-Grade 3

I love to read books that introduce children to people all around the world, and this book provides the perfect short introduction.

This book emphasizes the commonalities of people around the world as they go through a regular day. “By day we waken to the sun,” the text begins, “We yawn and stretch, as one by one… We wash. We brush. We dress. We eat. We greet each other when we meet."

I’ve long been a fan of Meilo So, and her charming watercolors provide just the right images, whether we are looking at a woman doing a traditional craft in Africa, boys playing soccer in Latin America, or children ice skating in New York. The illustrations are big and bright enough to make this a good book to share with a group, and the text is written in short, lyrical rhyme.

Thunder Boy, Jr. by Sherman Alexie
Thunder Boy, Jr. by Sherman Alexie

Thunder Boy Jr.

Kindergarten-Grade 3

I had heard that Sherman Alexie had written a picture book with a Native American main character, and I hoped it would be a good read-aloud to share with a group. When I was finally able to get my hands on Thunder Boy Jr., I was pleased to find that he had told a story with his trademark humor and heart.

The book centers on a universal dilemma: a boy who doesn’t like his name. He is called Thunder Boy Jr., named after his father who is Thunder Boy Sr. They call the dad “Big Thunder,” but Thunder Boy ends up being called “Little Thunder,” which sounds to him “like a burp or a fart.” He says, “Don’t get me wrong. My dad is awesome.” But the boy wants his own name, something that relates to him. He goes through a few options. Once, he tells us, he touched a wild orca on the nose, so maybe he should be called “Not Afraid of Ten Thousand Teeth.” Or, since he loves powwow dancing, maybe his name should be “Drum, Drums, and More Drums.”

He struggles to figure out how to tell his dad what he wants until one day his dad tells him it’s time he had a new name. The boy is overjoyed that his father seemed to read his mind and his heart. Then dad unveils his new name—Lightning! The boy seems to like his new name, saying, “Together, my dad and I will become amazing weather.”

The illustrations are exuberant and colorful with just the right touch of cultural detail, like the story itself. Alexie is a well-regarded author who has won awards for both his adult and teen books. It is nice to see him in the picture book arena, and I hope we will see more from him.

Everywhere Wonder by Matthew Swanson
Everywhere Wonder by Matthew Swanson

Everywhere, Wonder

Preschool-Grade 3

I like Everywhere Wonder because it works on so many different levels for different ages of readers/listeners.

If you have preschool-age children, this is a nice book for encouraging them to notice what’s around them. You can talk with them about the items you see in the pictures, the shapes, the colors.

If you have children who are a little bit older, this is a nice introduction to some notable places around the world and can pique an interest in history or geography. It would also be a good book to introduce children to a writing unit, encouraging them to look for wonder all around them.

At the beginning, we see a young boy pull a book from a bookshelf and start to read. “I have a story to share,” the text begins (presumably, it’s the book talking to him). “It is a little gift from me to you. You might not know it, but you have a story, too. You’ll find it in the things you stop to notice.”

Then, the boy floats out of the window with his dog, and they travel to many wonders of the world: the pyramids, the Grand Canyon, the Brazilian jungle, Japanese gardens, the Kenyan savannah, the Alaskan ocean, the Coral Sea, the moon (where “there is a quiet footprint that no rains will ever wash away), Sheboygan Wisconsin, and the North Pole.

The boy sees a polar bear there, and the text says “…you noticed him, didn’t you? He walked off this page and into you head. Now he is part of your story.”

The boy goes on to notice things in his everyday world: a treasure at the bottom of a swimming pool, a line of ants on the playground,a cut glass doorknob that makes rainbows when the light shines through.

The artwork is bright, nuanced, and fits the theme of wonder perfectly.

Last Stop on Market Street by Matt De La Pena
Last Stop on Market Street by Matt De La Pena

Last Stop on Market Street

Kindergarten-Grade 3

Besides being a book that shows readers a diverse neighborhood ,this is a good book to help children learn about thankfulness and seeing the positive side of life.

Last Stop on Market Street was the surprise winner of the Newbery in 2016, an award that is usually given to longer children’s books. Matt De La Pena is the first Hispanic author to receive the prestigious award. The boy at the center of the book, CJ, and his Nana happen to be African-American, but De La Pena says it’s not about race, but about seeing the beauty in a life that some would consider disadvantaged. He says that one of the most important things that happened to him in his childhood was “growing up without money.”

At the beginning of the book, CJ and his Nana are waiting for the bus in the rain, and CJ is not happy. He asks, “How come we gotta wait for the bus in all this wet?” Nana gently reminds him that the trees need a drink, just as she points out that they are lucky to have a bus driver who does magic tricks. On the bus, they talk with a blind musician, and at the end of their trip, readers find out that the pair are on their way to help out at a soup kitchen. Robinson’s illustrations complement the text wonderfully, showing the beauty inherent in the bustling neighborhood.

If I Had a Raptor by George O'Connor
If I Had a Raptor by George O'Connor

If I Had a Raptor

Kindergarten-Grade 3

I like to read If I Had a Raptor to the kids when our story time theme is "Dinosaurs." There are lots of fun books about bringing dinosaurs home as pet, and I was happy to see one with an African-American girl as the main character.

In the story, a young girl sees a box that says “free raptors” and brings one home as a pet. The girl has a great time with her raptor when it is little, but when it gets older and bigger, she puts a bell on its collar, presumably so the she can tell when it’s about to pounce on her. I suspect that what this book really wants to do is sneak in a few raptor facts: its hunting instincts, its night vision, etc. The cartoon illustrations are charming and fun.

Juna's Jar by Jane Bank
Juna's Jar by Jane Bank

Juna's Jar

Kindergarten-Grade 3

Almost every kid has a childhood friend move away, and I was happy to see that we had a book in the library that shows a Korean-American girl dealing with this kind of universal experience.

When Juna’s family is done eating a large jar of kimchi, she is allowed to keep the jar. She and her best friend, Hector, have fun collecting things and putting them in the jar.

But one day, Hector leaves their town to go live far away with his parents. Juna is bereft. She continues to collect things in her jar and at night, she has dreams in which she meets Hector. Each day she decides that the living things she has collected need more space. She sets them free and collects something else. Finally, she meets another friend who also likes to collect things. This is a book about seeing the world and also about dealing with the transitions in life. It has very sweet, soft watercolor illustrations.

School's First Day of School by Adam Rex
School's First Day of School by Adam Rex

School's First Day of School

Kindergarten-Grade 3

I love the switched perspective and the humor in this book.

Elementary school kids all know how they feel about school, but how does the school building itself feel? This book is sure to evoke some giggles of recognition when children learn that School feels anxious about all the children who are going to come. As the year starts, School is pleased to learn some new things and not so pleased when someone squirts milk out of his nose after hearing a joke. “Now I’m covered with nose milk,” School thinks, though he does admit the joke was pretty funny. The children are a diverse bunch, with different heritages and abilities, and Robinson’s illustrations do a nice job of capturing the mix of kids in the school.

The Typewriter by Bill Thomson
The Typewriter by Bill Thomson

The Typewriter

Kindergarten-Grade 3

I have always had a great time reading one of Bill Thomson's other books, Chalk to a class of kindergarteners, and I'm looking forward to showing them this one as well. I find that they get really involved in wordless books, eager to tell me the story they see playing out on the pages.

In this nearly wordless book, a threesome of children find an old-fashioned typewriter and discover that whenever they type a word, the thing that they have typed suddenly appears before them. At first, they create a beach and a bucket of ice cream taller than they are. But when the girl conjures up a giant crab, it’s up to her to figure out how to solve the mayhem that results.

The realistic illustrations help bring the story to life.

Lion, Lion by Miriam Busch
Lion, Lion by Miriam Busch

Lion, Lion

Kindergarten-Grade 3

I'm thinking that this is a book I might need to read twice to a group because it will take listeners a couple of run-throughs to figure out the twist in the story.

At the start of the book, a young boy calls out “LION!” and a lion appears from behind a building. Rather than running away, the boy engages in a conversation with the lion who, it turns out, is looking for lunch. The boy suggests some grass, and the lion says that it is “too snappy.” This answer doesn’t make a whole lot of sense until you look carefully at the pictures and realize that there are turtles in the grass. In fact, when we turn the page, we see that one of them has grabbed hold of the lion’s tail. Mushrooms are “too prickly” (hedgehogs are hanging out there), and the berries are “too stinky” (yes, there are skunks picking the berries.)

When the lion says that feathers make him sneeze, the boys gets the idea to go inside the lion’s stomach to find his lost cat (the ‘Lion” he was calling at the beginning of the book). When the boy gets a bird to tickle the actual lion, the boy and his cat escape in the ensuing sneeze. It’s creative, and a different kind of plot than children are used to seeing.

We Love You, Rosie! By Cynthia Rylant
We Love You, Rosie! By Cynthia Rylant

We Love You, Rosie! By Cynthia Rylant

When I was young, I was inseparable from our family’s two dogs. We lived on a ranch, and whenever my mother wanted to figure out where I was, she’d call out my name, and one of the dogs’ heads would pop up. She knew that wherever the dogs were, that’s where I was.

The two children in this book, who seem to be brother and sister, have a similar relationship with their dog, Rosie. Even though this book is a large-format picture book, the text is really that of an early reader. The stories in the book use a small vocabulary of short, easy-to-read words. For instance, the first “chapter” is called “Rosie Day and Night.” It reads, “Hello, Rosie. Did you just wake up? Do you love the DAY? Look at Rosie run! Look at Rosie play! Rosie runs and plays and runs and plays ALL DAY!”

The repetition is typical of books which are aimed at children just learning to read. The short words, picture clues, and repetition help them to reinforce their reading skills and give them a sense of accomplishment.

The illustrations are colorful, simple, and charming, a good accompaniment to the text.

Emma and Julia Love Ballet by Barbara McClintock
Emma and Julia Love Ballet by Barbara McClintock

Emma and Julia Love Ballet

Kindergarten-Grade 3

When I read this book, I immediately thought of Misty Copeland who recently became the first African-American woman to be named principal dancer at the American Ballet Theater. This is a timely book that shows the grown-up dancer, Julia, and the aspiring girl, Emma. They both follow similar practice routines, and at the end, Emma gets to go to one of Julia’s performances and meet her after the show. It’s a sweet story that little ballet aficionados will be drawn to.

One Word from Sophia by Jim Averbeck
One Word from Sophia by Jim Averbeck

One Word from Sophia

Grades 2-5

This book is a great teaching tool for vocabulary.

Sophia wants a giraffe for her birthday, but she knows she has four relatives who will say that a giraffe is not a good idea. She first presents her case to her mother, not the easiest thing to do since her mother is actually a judge in her work life. Sophia argues that giraffes meet federal regulations because they “burn less gasoline” and they “are not shown to be the cause of any major diseases.” Her mother rules against the idea because she “failed to cite any laws about minors driving quadrupeds.” Also, it seems that Sophia’s argument was “too verbose.”

She then tries with her dad, the businessman, arguing that she could sell the manure, but dad thinks the business plan doesn’t take costs into account. And, she’s too effusive. She doesn’t fare well with other members of the family until she boils her request down to one word, “please.” When they finally grant her wish, she finds a two-word phrase helpful: “Thank you.”

Under the whimsical story there are lessons about how to tailor your presentations to different audiences, the importance of genuineness, and of course—vocabulary. This is one of the few picture books with a glossary at the back.

Lottie Paris Lives Here by Angela Johnson
Lottie Paris Lives Here by Angela Johnson

Lottie Paris Lives Here

Kindergarten-Grade 3

This book is fun to read out loud because the language has such individuality and character.

We are introduced to Lottie Paris, a girl with lots of style who plays in the park, dresses up, and likes to eat her cookie more that she likes to eat her vegetables. Sometimes she has to sit in the “quiet chair,” when she has become a little too exuberant.

I like the bright, festive illustrations and the voice of the narrator. At one point, she shows us Lottie’s hat, all decorated with flowers, feathers, beads, and a frog. “Do you like Lottie’s hat?” she asks. “Uh-huh, me too,” she says.

All of this serves to pull the reader into the world and outlook of Lottie Paris.

Everyday Diversity for Children -- I Had a Favorite Dress
Everyday Diversity for Children -- I Had a Favorite Dress

I Had a Favorite Dress

Kindergarten-Grade 3

I've always loved telling the story "Joseph Had a Little Overcoat," about the Jewish tailor who takes a worn out coat and makes a vest out of it. When the vest is worn out, he makes a hat, and then a tie, and so on, recycling the fabric into smaller and smaller things, until all he has left is the story of what happened to his coat.

This book is a creative take on that idea, this time using a girl as the main character. A girl has a favorite dress that she wears every Tuesday, but it eventually wears out in places. Her mother alters it for her and it becomes a shirt which she wears every Wednesday. As time goes on, the shirt transforms into a tank top, a skirt, a scarf, socks, and a bow which the girl wears on successive days of the week.

It's a nice way to introduce days of the week, articles of clothing, and a diverse character all in one.

Lovely, sweet illustrations.

More-igami by Dori Kleber
More-igami by Dori Kleber

More-igami

Grades 1-4

I've incorporated origami into my craft units for quite a few years now, and I was happy to find this new title which incorporates origami into a diverse neighborhood whose heritages include Japanese, Latino, and African roots.

Joey observes how to fold origami from the mother of his classmate, Sarah Takimoto. He is astonished when she makes a crane. He asks her to teach him how to do origami. “I can show you the folds,” she says, “but if you want to be an origami master, you’ll need practice and patience.” Joey proceeds to practice, practice, practice, until his mother--who discovers 38 folded dollar bills in her purse--says, “This folding has to stop.”

Joey is at loose ends until Mr. Lopez allows him to practice folding the napkins in his restaurant. Finally, Joey is able to fold a paper crane from a napkin (an impressive feat) and he shares his skills with a red-haired girl who comes in to the restaurant.

In the end papers, children can find instructions for making a relatively easy origami ladybug.

Additional Everyday Diversity Books

I have been keeping a list of books which show diverse characters for about 15 years. Here, you will find the rest of the books that I've examined over that time along with a short description of each. At press time, many of these books were still in print. For those that aren't, I've had good luck going through used book sites to get copies that are in good shape.

  • We Came to America by Faith Ringgold. Short, simple book about different groups who came to America and the things they contributed.
  • I’m Like You, You’re Like Me by Cindy Gainer. Cute pictures, talks about how we look different but are all alike.
  • My Colors, My World by Maya Christina Gonzalez. Girl talks about the colors she sees in the desert. Spanish and English.
  • Maria Had a Little Llama by Angela Dominguez. Spanish and English takeoff of the rhyme "Mary Had a Little Lamb” but with a llama. Setting is Peru.
  • Families by Shelley Rotner. Colorful photos and short text about all sorts of families.
  • Happy in Our Skin by Fran Manushkin. Talks about skin, the colors, how it heals, dimples, freckles. Rhyming. Cute.
  • The World in a Second by Isabel Minhos Martins. Big illustrations show what could be happening around the world in one second. For older kids.
  • One Family by George Shannon. Includes multicultural families, charming pictures, everyone doing everyday things.
  • Wild About Us! by Karen Beaumont Talks about how different zoo animals look & how we’re glad they aren’t all the same. Great ill by Janet Stevens.
  • Call Me Tree by Maya Christina Gonzalez. Simple text about a child who compares himself to a tree. In English and Spanish.
  • Lottie Paris and the Best Place by Angela Johnson. Girl and boy meet at the library reading books that they’re interested in
  • Home Field Advantage by Justin Tuck. NFL players reminisce about haircuts.
  • The Sandwich Swap by Queen Rania. Girls think each other’s sandwiches are gross until they swap.
  • My Friend Maya Loves to Dance by Cheryl Willis Hudson. Short descriptive text about African-American girl told by a girl in a wheelchair.
  • Susan Laughs by Jeanne Willis. Short text describes familiar activities that Susan does. She also happens to be in a wheelchair.
  • Say Hello by Rachel Isadora. Hispanic girl goes around neighborhood meeting people from many cultures, and saying “hello.”
  • My Father is Taller Than a Tree by Joseph Bruchac. Sons talking about fathers from all sorts of cultures.
  • Big Red Lollipop by Rukhsana Khan. Mother makes girl take little sister to a birthday party. Problems ensue. Nationality not given, but author is from Pakistan.
  • Gracias*Thanks by Pat Mora. Simple giving thanks book. In English and Spanish.
  • Shades of People by Shelley Rotner. A book describing shades of people’s skin. Mentions that families have different shades and that shade doesn’t determine what a person is like.
  • All Kinds of Families by Mary Ann Hoberman. Rhyming text about families.
  • Flying! by Kevin Luthardt. African-American boy asks his dad why he can’t fly and they explore ideas together.
  • Wish: Wishing Traditions Around the World by Roseanne Thong. A charming book about children’s traditions with wishes around the world. Small images in pictures and small print.
  • Best Friend on Wheels by Debra Shirley. Girl talks about what she does with friend in a wheelchair. Told in rhyme.
  • Snow by Cynthia Rylant. Short poetic work about snow with different heritages of people portrayed.
  • Kitchen Dance by Maurie Manning. Kids find parents dancing while they do the dishes. Family is Hispanic, uses occasional Spanish words.
  • Rain Play by Cynthia Cotten. Short rhyming text about rain.
  • Princess Grace by Mary Hoffman Nice story about how princesses are more than pretty clothes. Would be good introduction to various ethnic folktales with familiar characters.
  • Here Are My Hands by Bill Martin Jr. Nice, short phrases about things children do with different body parts. Features children with many different backgrounds.
  • A Little Peace by Barbara Kerley. Short, simple text with pictures from all over the world.
  • My Cat Copies Me by Yoon D. Kwon. Simple book about girl and cat doing things together.
  • I Can Do It, Too! By Karen Baicker. A girl is gaining confidence as she sees she can do the things that others do, like pouring juice or strumming a guitar.
  • You Can Do It Too! by Karen Baicker. A young girl teaches her brother how to do a variety of tasks.
  • Dragon Dancing by Carole Lexa Schaefer. A teacher reads the class a book about dragons and then the children craft them with a variety of flourishes. This is a great one to read and then have the children make their own dragons.
  • I Am America by Charles Smith. Big, color photos depict a variety of children.
  • Bigger Than Daddy by Harriet Ziefert. A boy and his dad do everyday things, and the boy wants to do all kinds of grownup things like pushing the elevator button.
  • Full, Full of Love by Trish Cooke. Little Jay Jay helps his grandmother with making a family dinner and finds hugs and kisses wherever he goes.
  • Emma and Her Friends: a Book about Colors by Sandra Desmazie. Girl invites children who like different colors over to party. Short. Multicultural illustrations.
  • Friends! by Elaine Scott Pictures by Margaret Miller. Large-format photos with questions to help children talk about friendship.
  • Sadie Can Count: a Multisensory Book by Ann Cunningham. This books shows things in Sadie’s world and uses raised images to illustrate them. Includes braille letters.
  • Boo Hoo Boo-Boo by Marilyn Singer. Diverse kids get bumps and bruises and go to their caregivers for comfort.
  • There is a Flower at the Tip of My Nose Smelling Me by Alice Walker. Short, poetic pages about nature and creativity by renowned writer Alice Walker.
  • Friends at School by Rochelle Bunnett. Diverse children of different abilities engage in different activities at school.
  • Once Around the Sun by Bobbie Katz. Multicultural illustrations and poems for each month of the year.
  • I Like Myself by Karen Beaumont. Short verse about the things a girl likes about herself. Bright pictures.
  • Max Found Two Sticks by Brian Pinkney. African-American boy beats out rhythm.
  • Honey Baby Sugar Child by Alice Faye Duncan. Rhythmic text. African-American mother and child.
  • The Colors of Us by Karen Katz. A young elementary girl discovers there are several shades of brown-colored skin.
  • Families by Ann Morris. Short text, pictures of families from around the world doing things like weaving, playing the violin, etc.
  • Bebe Goes Shopping by Susan Middleton Elya. Rhyme done with quite a few Spanish words. Baby is into everything shopping until mama gives him a box of animal crackers.
  • Mama's Day by Linda Ashman. Short verse celebrates bond between mother and child. Mutilcultural.
  • MY Nose, Your Nose by Melanie Walsh. Simple pictures comparing physical types and pointing out that the kids have similar likes and dislikes.
  • Go, Go, Go! Kids on the Move by Stephen R. Swinburne. Pictures of multicultural kids doing different things.
  • ABC Kids by Laura Williams. Great photos of diverse children that show different letters of the alphabet. The children always crack up when we get to the photo that shows children in their Underwear.
  • Sometimes I'm Bombaloo by Rachel Vail. A story about how the usual frustrations lead a girl to go “bombaloo,” and want to act out her anger. She uses different strategies for calming herself down.
  • Whose Shoe? by Margaret Miller. I love reading this book and having children guess who wears the different kinds of shoes. Types of shoes include clown, ballet, soccer, etc.
  • These last 3 books present everyday and Chinese cultural items that illustrate either shapes, colors, or numbers.
  • Round is a Mooncake by Roseanne Thong
  • Red is a Dragon by Roseanne Thong
  • One is a Drummer by Roseanne Thong

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      Kethlak 27 minutes ago

      Ezra Jack Keats's "The Snowy Day" is a classic one. I'd also suggest another one by Todd Parr, "It's Okay to Be Different", which includes individuals with disabilities.