Category Archives: picture books

A totally brilliant pastry-maker with a secret

somewhere elseGeorge Laurent finds a lot of ways NOT to go south or north or any other direction.  He is a master of the éclair and the strudel, but he is possibly a homebody kind of a bird.  Perhaps he’s just too busy with yoga classes to visit the Alaskan tundra like his friends?

Oh my, well, there’s a story here.  Fortunately, George Laurent and Pascal Lombard get to talking one day, and the truth about George Laurent’s missed flying lessons comes out.  A good friend like Pascal Lombard might just be able to help – with training or an engineering project or something.

This is a wonderful story about overcoming or moving past the things you are bad at, making friends, and taking risks. It is also a completely delightful visual experience, with funny little realistic touches.  It’s probably a bit too detailed for most of my storytime listeners, but one-on-one, it’s a treat!

Somewhere Else by Gus Gordon

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Peter Reynolds wrote this book for me

word collectorYou might not see a white, middle-aged word nerd in the book, but I assure you, my younger self is right there on the page.  So that’s the story I’m going with.  Try it yourself — you will feel better all day knowing that Peter H. Reynolds wrote this book for YOU.

Jerome (the boy in the book) also loves words, collects them, even carries them around in large bags.  One beautiful, wonderful, dream cloud of a day, the words get jumbled.  From the jumble comes poetry, and Jerome shares it and his many other powerful words across the wind, out in the world, with all of us.

Especially me.  The woman Peter H. Reynolds wrote this book for.

The Word Collector by Peter H. Reynolds

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Play and joy and fighting and forgiving

draw the lineI love a good wordless picture book – so many possible uses!  Whether you’re working with language learners or young writers or kids who are learning how stories work, they are so amazing for starting conversations and thinking through how things work.  And if they’re blessed with amazing art, that is awesome, too.

Draw the Line gives us a lot to work with.  Two boys drawing lines, a little imagination, some struggle, and suddenly they’ve created a canyon between them.  Will they be able to bridge this divide?  Yes, of course.  They’ll also give you an opportunity to talk about what happens when you fight, how you make up and move forward, and how much fun it is to play with new friends.  Also, you can use it as an excuse to revisit Harold and the Purple Crayon or the Journey series by Aaron Becker.

Draw the Line by Kathryn Otoshi

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Please slow down, Mr. Fox!

Hello+Door+CoverWhen you are a thief – especially a quick-moving, easy-to-distract thief – you might want to consider slowing down and paying attention to your environment to improve your chances of success.  If you see paintings of fancypants bears on the walls, for example, you might think, “Hmmm, does this homeowner just really like bears or could, maybe, possibly, there be bears living here?”  If you see a tell-all about Goldilocks, that might be another clue.

If you’re a fox, you might still miss all these clues, but in this case it won’t matter.  You will fly along with a sweet, silly rhyme, blissfully launching yourself through bright and cheery illustrations until suddenly, you realize there are bears.  But then maybe you just pick yourself up and start again, like we all sometimes have to.  It’s a bit of a stretch to make this a book on making mistakes and starting over, but whether you stretch or not, it’s simply delightful.

Hello, Door by Alistair Heim and Alisa Coburn

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More sassy sea creatures

planktonIf you somehow missed out on Barnacle is Bored, now’s your chance to catch up on sea creatures in their darker moments.  (For more on Barnacle, see here.)

Plankton is super pushy, calling Mr. Mussel rude when he doesn’t buy into Plankton’s enthusiastic greetings, slowing things down in what you have to assume is a tone of voice no one really likes to hear…  Oh, Plankton, why can’t you just let Mr. Mussel be Mr. Mussel?  There’s a fun little twist at the end, making this a fun one to read with some other snarky picture books — Jon Klassen’s I Want My Hat Back or This is Not My Hat or maybe Little Red or Rapunzel by Bethan Woollvin.


Plankton is Pushy by Jonathan Fenske

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We children led the way

let the childrenSometimes adults are afraid to speak up.  But when children use their voice, they can be heard, too.  Their message can be just as powerful or even more powerful.

This one’s a good reminder to kids that they can change the world, too, and it presents civil rights history in a way that young kids can understand and relate to.  The art is a much-appreciated bonus.

Let the Children March by Monica Clark-Robinson and Frank Morrison

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Come for the aphorisms, stay for the art

from the heartAfter reading this book, I tried – for about twenty seconds – to find some appropriate Midwestern or Iowa sayings on the level of the great ones in this book.  I only lasted twenty seconds, mostly because I haven’t had enough caffeine yet, so I can’t think of any on my own.  The first thing that seemed to fit my online search was heavily weighted towards Minnesota and Wisconsin, and the second was just some clickbait slideshow which kind of made fun of us goofy Midwesterners for calling water fountains “bubblers,” which, by the way, is a Wisconsin thing.  I’ve never known anyone in Iowa or Kansas who used that, so it’s not really Midwestern.  It’s state-limited.  So, I’m not up for heavy research today.  I’m not at work, people.  I’m just writing my silly blog, so I can let this research moment pass.

Having wasted a whole paragraph of your time already, I’ll be quick about the rest.  This is a beautiful book, and it’s full of wise sayings which are explained in simple and easy-to-understand language underneath.  You’ll know some of them already, but others may be new.  For kids who like inspirational quotes or teachers who are looking for a discussion on perseverance or community and the like, this one can be read all in one gulp or savored over a few days.

From the Heart of Africa: a book of wisdom by Eric Walters

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Of dreams and stars and unhelpful adults…

maeOne of Mae Jemison’s teachers suggested that she should maybe think about becoming a nurse instead of an astronaut.  Since the book’s about the first African-American female astronaut, we know how that advice worked out.  It’s an inspirational story, sweetly illustrated and simply told, and it’s a nice addition to any collection of biographies – of people who have overcome, of African-American leaders, of girls and women who resisted stereotypes, of dreamers.

I’m not picking on nurses or teachers here.  Nursing is a great profession for anyone.  So is teaching, and it’s actually the rare teacher now (I think) who would tell a little girl that she should maybe change her goals to fit with something more socially appropriate.  As an adult, it’s a good reminder of the impact we have in children’s lives and that they sometimes remember for a very long time when we show them that we don’t think they can be who they’re hoping to become.  It’s more helpful to support them, while letting them know what they actually have to accomplish to reach that goal.  As kids, we don’t really understand all the steps it takes to become an astronaut or a teacher or a nurse, but the right adult(s) can help a child nurture that dream into reality.

Mae Among the Stars by Roda Ahmed and Stasia Burrington


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In honor of…

gone crazy in alabamaI’m not the biggest fan of all the special months.  Theoretically, they help highlight authors and issues affecting different groups (African-Americans, women, Latinx, LGBT folks, Asians, etc.), and I have no problem with that.  But shouldn’t we really be looking for more diverse books ALL year?  Of course.

Anyway, it’s February, so this year, I’ve decided that I’m looking at this as an EXTRA reason to highlight great African-American and African authors and characters.  Below are some of my favorites of the past few years:



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Opening your eyes to the possibilities around you

Today we meet a bear, a sheep and an inventor-explorer—what could be better?

Mostly, Bunnybear’s a bear, but while there are a lot of great things about being a bear, Bunnybear also feels like a bunny – bouncy, light, happy.  The other bears find this a little weird, to say the least, and then when real rabbits actually appear, they don’t seem to appreciate the bunny in Bunnybear, either.  Well, phooey.  Then Grizzlybun shows up.  It turns out that the larger world of bunnies have some preconceived notions that don’t include loud and burly, so Bunnybear and Grizzlybun have something in common.  Finding each other means they have a friend and a path to a less limiting world of bunnies and bears.  Nice.

Lily Wool is whimsical in the same way Bunnybear is, although she bucks the conventions of sheep-dom by skipping through meadows, becoming a gymnast, learning to lasso, and playing Cupid.  The other sheep, however, are not so happy with Lily’s explorations into creativity with wool.  Does Lily give up?  She does not.  She even uses her new skills to open a business.  So there, boring sheep!

Norton and Alpha are inventors and explorers, always on the search for something new to repurpose or investigate.  When they come across a mysterious object, they pluck it from the ground, study it, and even x-ray it, but this thing doesn’t seem like anything they recognize.  And it has these funny roundish objects that fall out of it, too.  Hmmm.  Days pass, rain falls, things heat up, and by the time Norton and Alpha go out to collect again, a whole field of flowers has appeared.  Wonderful!

All would work nicely with younger kids who are starting to see how most everyone doesn’t fit into the expectations their world sometimes has for them.  Be who you are, they say, and don’t be afraid to be different or find something new to love.

Norton and Alpha by Kristyna Litten

Lily Wool by Paula Vásquez

BunnyBear by Andrea J. Loney and Carmen Saldaña

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