PICTURE BOOK FAVORITES TO SHARE WITH SOMEONE YOU LOVE

In honor of Valentine’s Day, I’m spreading some love with this month’s picture book favorites. From books whose characters include a little hedgehog and his mom, a young owl and his Grammy, a lonely porcupine, and a pair of silly spaghetti eating monkeys, love is shared and explained in ways that will both warm your heart and make you laugh. Enjoy!

Love You Always

“Love You Always” written by Frances Stickley and illustrated by Migy Blanco (Copyright 2019, Random House Children’s Books. Originally published by Nosy Crow Ltd.) is the story of little Hedgie the hedgehog and his mommy, who are taking a walk and sharing a conversation about the enduring love of a mother for her little one. After asking many questions, little Hedgie learns that “as long as skies are high above . . . there’s one thing that will never change, and that’s love.” Busy, color-filled illustrations are the perfect complement to this sweet rhyming story.

Love is Kind

“Love is Kind” written by Laura Sassi and illustrated by Lison Chaperon (Copyright 2018, Zonderkidz) follows Little Owl as he struggles to find a way to buy his Grammy a heart-shaped box of chocolates for her birthday. With each encounter, he shares by example the attributes of love as found in 1 Corinthians 13 of the Bible. At the end of his day, when all his attempts have failed, his Grammy explains to him that the love he shared with others along the way was a better gift to her than any chocolates would have been. Children will likely relate to the many feelings and choices Little Owl makes as the kid-friendly illustrations help to tell the story.

Elmore

“Elmore” written and illustrated by Holly Hobbie (Copyright 2018, Random House Children’s Books) is a beautifully illustrated story about a porcupine named Elmore who lives by himself and has trouble making friends because of his quills. After a visit from a wise old uncle, Elmore decides to give away some of his treasured quills to the other animals, suggesting they use them to write notes to their friends. In return, the animals appreciate Elmore, quills and all, and share the love found between friends through the notes they send him.

One of my favorites from years gone by…

“More Spaghetti I Say!” written by Rita Golden Gelman and illustrated by Jack Kent (Copyright 1977, Scholastic, Inc.) is laugh out loud fun. When Freddy wants to play, Minnie is too busy eating spaghetti. When Minnie has had too much spaghetti and begins to feel sick, Freddy takes her spaghetti away and soon discovers that he loves it too. This sweet, silly story, told in rhyming verse with simple illustrations, is a cautionary tale about the love of good food and the patience of a good friend. It was updated by Scholastic in 1992 as a Hello Reader! book with new illustrations by Mort Gerberg, but I still treasure my original copy from 1977. A note of advice . . . read it aloud, with feeling, to a child or to yourself, and try not to laugh.

Happy Valentine’s Day!

PICTURE BOOK FAVORITES ABOUT WINTER

When I heard the weatherman say that we were having the coldest weather we’ve seen yet this season, I knew it was time to showcase some winter-themed picture books. These favorites are filled with winter wonder. They also serve as a reminder that while nature is preparing itself for the new beginnings that come in the spring, winter can be a time of reflection for the fresh new year that is ahead of us. So … grab a blanket, pour yourself some hot chocolate, and enjoy!

Winter Dance

“Winter Dance” written by Marion Dane Bauer and illustrated by Richard Jones (Copyright 2017, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt) has a young red fox trying to figure out what he should do to prepare for winter. Each beautifully illustrated, color-filled scene follows the fox as he consults with the creatures of the forest. They all suggest that he do what they are doing, but none of their plans seem right to him. When he finally listens to the “hush!” of the winter wind, his answer is found as he and another young red fox share a joyful winter dance together in the falling snow.

When Winter Comes

“When Winter Comes” written by Nancy Van Laan and illustrated by Susan Gaber (Copyright 2000, an Anne Schwartz book from Atheneum Books for Young Readers) is a rhyming story presented through the questions of a child who is outside on a family walk. Using vivid illustrations in acrylic on Bristol board, each alternating set of pages presents a question and then an answer about where some animals and plants go when the winter cold comes.

Sleep Tight Farm“Sleep Tight Farm” written by Eugenie Doyle and illustrated by Becca Stadtlander (Copyright 2016, Chronicle Books) takes a look at one family’s busy time getting their farm ready for winter. The beautifully painted illustrations will have you pausing to take in all the details. At the end of the book, there is a note from the author about school children and their teachers who visit her farm and see for themselves that a hard-working farm life also has many rewards.

Need more winter books? Try these poetry and non-fiction picture books:

“Winter Eyes: Poems and Paintings” written and illustrated by Douglas Florian (Copyright 1999, Greenwillow Books division of William Morrow & Company) is one of my favorite poetry books for children of all ages. It’s simply brilliant!

“Let’s Look at the Seasons: Wintertime” written and illustrated by Ann Schweninger (Copyright 1990, Scholastic, by arrangement with Penguin Books) describes how living things are able to endure the changing weather as the calendar moves through the winter months. This book also presents a few “winter-fun” activity ideas.

Happy Reading 🙂

PICTURE BOOK FAVORITES ABOUT CHRISTMAS TRADITIONS

I’ve spent the past month reading picture books about Christmas. There’s no shortage of them, that’s for sure. Some will make you laugh, while others pull on your heartstrings. Choosing just a few to share with you wasn’t easy, but these favorites present the timeless quality of Christmas traditions. As long as you’re breathing, it’s never too late to start a new tradition or to revive an old one. Enjoy the season!

Bear Stays Up

“Bear Stays Up for Christmas” written by Karma Wilson and illustrated by Jane Chapman (Copyright 2004, Margaret K. McElderry Books division of Simon & Schuster) is one of several books by this talented duo that feature Bear and his friends. On Christmas Eve, Bear is awakened by his friends, who have all gathered to help him stay up until Christmas. Together with Bear, they find a tree, bake, decorate, sing, and hang stockings. When Bear is finally wide awake, his friends nod off to sleep. He busily prepares for Christmas morning, staying awake to share his surprise with them. Told in rhyming verse and complemented by expressive acrylic paint illustrations, this is a fun holiday read-aloud story to share with little ones.

Winter's Gift

“Winter’s Gift” written and illustrated by Jane Monroe Donovan (Copyright 2004, Sleeping Bear Press division of Thomson Gale) is the story of an elderly farmer facing his first Christmas without his wife, who had died that spring. On a snowy Christmas Eve, he finds himself remembering Christmas traditions that the two of them had shared and considers the hope he once found in those traditions, such as the star on top of the tree, to be lost. That evening, he discovers a collapsed mare in the snow. Leading her to his barn, he falls asleep while watching over her during the night. Waking up on Christmas morning, he discovers that the mare has given birth to a foal with a white star in the center of its forehead–reminding him of the Christmas star that he and his wife had always placed on top of their Christmas tree. Exquisite illustrations give readers a front row seat into this precious story.

Mousekin's Christmas Eve

“Mousekin’s Christmas Eve” written and illustrated by Edna Miller (Copyright 1965, Simon and Schuster) is the vintage story of a mouse who finds himself alone in an empty house on Christmas Eve and decides to find a new home. As he makes his way through the snow and danger that surround him outside, he is drawn to a house by the sounds of laughter and music and the colorful Christmas tree lights that shine out the window and into the snow. Waiting until the family goes to bed for the night, he finds an opening into the house. After exploring the Christmas tree, he settles in to safely sleep among the peace and quiet of the nativity set. If you’ve never read any of Edna Miller’s beautifully illustrated “Mousekin” books, I encourage you to enjoy them while they can still be found.

Night Before the Night Before Christmas

“The Night Before the Night Before Christmas” written by Natasha Wing and illustrated by Mike Lester (Copyright 2002, Grosset & Dunlap division of Penguin Young Readers) is one of many in “The Night Before” series of picture books. Rhyming text pairs perfectly with comedic illustrations to present a funny look at how one busy family’s Christmas traditions turn to chaos when Mom has the flu. In the family’s rush to get everything done, they finally come to realize that “…things are just stuff. Christmas is about love, and we have quite enough.”

Merry Christmas!

PICTURE BOOK FAVORITES FOR GIVING THANKS

Last November, I posted my first installment of the “Picture Book Favorites” blog. It is a joy to share my favorite books each month and I always look forward to hearing your comments as well. Let’s keep it going! This month’s favorites share the theme of thankfulness. Each of them gives tribute to the Thanksgiving holiday, but the common message they send is deeper than one day can hold. These books remind us to slow down and take time to give thanks. Enjoy!

In November

“In November” written by Cynthia Rylant and illustrated by Jill Kastner (Copyright 2000, Harcourt, Inc.) describes the annual November activities of creatures both great and small as cooler weather moves in. The beautiful oil on paper illustrations are a perfect complement to the telling of the story.

Thanksgiving Graces

“Thanksgiving Graces” written by Mark Kimball Moulton and illustrated by David Wenzel (Copyright 2011, Ideals Children’s Books) is a busy rhyming story about a boy who watches his family’s Thanksgiving guest list grow out of control and worries that there won’t be enough food for everyone. As the meal comes together, he learns a lesson about the grace of sharing what you have with others and the reason his family gathers for their annual Thanksgiving meal.

The Memory Cupboard

“The Memory Cupboard: A Thanksgiving Story” written by Charlotte Herman and illustrated with acrylic paint on boards by Ben F. Stahl (Copyright 2003, Albert Whitman & Company) is the story of a girl named Katie, who travels with her parents to visit her grandmother’s house for Thanksgiving. When Katie accidentally drops and breaks a special gravy boat, her grandmother takes her to a memory cupboard where she keeps the items she’s fond of that have somehow been broken over the years. Katie learns that it’s the memories that make these things special and that “people are always more important than things.”

Other Thanksgiving favorites include:

“The Night Before Thanksgiving” written by Natasha Wing and illustrated by Tammie Lyon (Copyright 2001, Grosset & Dunlap division of Penguin Young Readers) is a fun story about all the chaos that families put themselves through as they prepare for the Thanksgiving holiday meal.

“Llama Llama Gives Thanks” written by Anna Dewdney and illustrated by J. T. Morrow (Copyright 2017, Viking division of Penguin Young Readers) uses simple text and descriptive illustrations to remind us that “Thanksgiving is not just one day” and to “give thanks all year, in every way.” This board book is a quick and easy read to share with toddlers.

Happy Reading!

PICTURE BOOK FAVORITES FOR OCTOBER FUN

As the weather continues to transition from summer into autumn, October brings fall festivals, pumpkin carving, and trick-or-treating. The books I’ve chosen for this month’s favorites focus on the gifts of autumn and the fun of sharing them with others. Enjoy!

Pumpkin Countdown

“Pumpkin Countdown” written by Joan Holub and illustrated by Jan Smith (Copyright 2012, Albert Whitman & Company) is a counting book told in rhyme about a class field trip to a farmer’s pumpkin patch. Each busy, fun-filled page is colorfully illustrated with information that is sure to teach readers of any age something new about pumpkins. If you’ve ever been on a school field trip to a pumpkin patch, this book will bring back memories for you.

A Pumpkin Prayer

“A Pumpkin Prayer” written by Amy Parker and illustrated by Kirsten Richards (Copyright 2011, Tommy Nelson division of Thomas Nelson Publishers) is a board book in the “A Time to Pray” series of books. Simple verse combines with sweet illustrations for a thankful tribute to the many blessings of autumn. This is a wonderful read-aloud book to share with toddlers.

Click Clack Boo

“Click, Clack, Boo! A Tricky Treat” written by Doreen Cronin and illustrated in watercolor by Betsy Lewin (Copyright 2013, Atheneum Books for Young Readers) has Farmer Brown’s barnyard animals up to mischief again, just in time for Halloween. Since Farmer Brown doesn’t like Halloween, he decides to go to bed early. This page-turner has Farmer Brown hearing many ordinary sounds that seem spooky to him on Halloween night. When one of those sounds is a “quack, quack, quackle,” he decides it’s time to investigate and discovers a surprise in the barn.

Nate Halloween

“Nate the Great and the Halloween Hunt” written by Marjorie Weinman Sharmat and illustrated by Marc Simont (Copyright 1989, Coward-McCann; reissued 2005, Yearling imprint of Random House) is one of many vintage Nate the Great mysteries. Readers tag along as kid-detective Nate the Great and his faithful dog, Sludge follow the clues to solve a Halloween mystery about a missing cat belonging to his friend, Rosamond. This edition has added activity pages (by Emily Costello and Jody Wheeler) that are filled with jokes, facts, recipes, and other activities for Halloween.

Other favorite titles that focus on the fun of the season without being scary include “Pete the Cat: Five Little Pumpkins” and “Snowmen at Halloween.” “Pete the Cat: Five Little Pumpkins” written and illustrated by James Deen (Copyright 2015, Harper imprint of Harper Collins Publishers) presents a Pete-themed illustrated version of the well-known classic children’s song. “Snowmen at Halloween” written by Caralyn Buehner and beautifully illustrated by Mark Buehner (Copyright 2019, Dial Books for Young Readers division of Penguin Random House) is the newest of several collaborations by this husband-and-wife team presenting the antics of snowmen when no one is watching them.

Happy Reading!

PICTURE BOOK FAVORITES FOR THE FALL SEASON

It may not look or feel like it yet, but the calendar has officially moved into another season. It’s goodbye summer and hello fall! I’m hoping this month’s picture book favorites will help you get ready for the changing sights, sounds, smells, and tastes that are headed our way. Since this is my second year to blog about fall picture books, I hope you’ll look back at last year’s favorites too. Enjoy!

The Scarecrow

“The Scarecrow” written by Beth Ferry and illustrated by Eric and Terry Fan a/k/a The Fan Brothers (Copyright 2019, HARPER imprint of HarperCollins Publishers) is my new favorite book. Written in rhyming text and illustrated using pencil, ballpoint, and Photoshop, this is a heartwarming story and a true work of art. When a scared baby crow falls from the sky, old Scarecrow snaps his pole to bend down and save it. The baby Crow grows up in Scarecrow’s heart of hay and they are inseparable until Crow must fly out into the world, leaving Scarecrow alone. The following spring, Crow brings a mate and returns to his friend Scarecrow’s heart of hay to make a home for their family.

Fletcher and the Falling Leaves

“Fletcher and the Falling Leaves” written by Julia Rawlinson and illustrated by Tiphanie Beeke (Copyright 2006, Greenwillow Books imprint of HarperCollins Publishers) is the story of a worried little fox named Fletcher, who thinks his favorite tree is sick when it begins to lose its leaves. Although Fletcher is not able to stop the leaves from falling, he soon learns that his tree has a surprise waiting for him. Full-color pastel illustrations transport the words in this story to its sparkling end.

The Middle of Fall

“In the Middle of Fall” written by Kevin Henkes and illustrated by Laura Dronzek (Copyright 2017, Greenwillow Books imprint of HarperCollins Publishers) is one of several collaborations by this author/illustrator duo. A couple of my previous blog posts have put the spotlight on their other books about seasons, “When Spring Comes,” and “Winter is Here.” This month’s installment once again combines simple creative prose with gorgeous full-color acrylic art to display a wind-blown fall season being enjoyed by children, plants, and animals.

Other titles that are great for sharing during the fall season include the vintage books “Hello Mr. Scarecrow” and “The Lonely Scarecrow.” “Hello Mr. Scarecrow” written and illustrated by Rob Lewis (Copyright 1987, Farrar Straus Giroux) is an easy reader story for preschoolers about a year in the life of a scarecrow. “The Lonely Scarecrow” written by Tim Preston and illustrated by Maggie Kneen (Copyright 1999 by Dutton Children’s Books division of Penguin Putnam Books) is a beautifully illustrated story about a lonely scarecrow who finds some friends after a winter snowstorm changes him into a friendly looking snowman. The embossing of the book’s pages give them a textured effect that children are sure to find fascinating.

Happy fall reading!

PICTURE BOOK FAVORITES ABOUT FRIENDSHIP

In honor of the new school year, I’ve chosen some picture book favorites that exemplify the meaning of friendship. As an added bonus, each of these books are written by authors who are also illustrators. These well-told stories with beautiful illustrations are perfect for sharing with family and friends. Enjoy!

Goodbye Friend Hello Friend

“Goodbye, Friend! Hello, Friend!” written and illustrated by Cori Doerrfeld (Copyright 2019, Dial Books for Young Readers imprint of Penguin Random House) follows two young friends as they spend time together and discover that every time life gives us a goodbye, it leads to another hello. With text using simple phrases and art described by the author as having been “made with digital ink, Dr. Pepper, and a good dose of nostalgia,” Cori presents a sweet story about how true friendship can endure the test of time and distance.

CYRIL AND PAT

“Cyril and Pat” written and illustrated by Emily Gravett (Copyright 2018, Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers) is the story of two unlikely friends. Cyril, a lonely park squirrel, finds a new best friend when he meets Pat. They share many adventures together while the other animals keep telling Cyril that Pat is not like him. Cyril eventually discovers that Pat is not a squirrel, he is a rat. Following the advice of the animals, Cyril stays away from Pat and once again becomes lonely. The two friends find each other again when a mean dog chases Cyril into the city and Pat is there to rescue him. The expressive pencil, watercolor, and acrylic ink illustrations help this funny book explain that friends can be different and that following others isn’t always the best choice.

Got to Get to Bears

“Got to Get to Bear’s” written and illustrated by Brian Lies (Copyright 2019, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt) has a little chipmunk named Izzy desperately trying to make her way through a snowstorm so she can get to her friend Bear’s house. With help from several other friends along the way, Izzy gets there just in time for everyone to share a fun surprise. The gorgeous acrylic paint illustrations might make this a slower read as you stop to admire the artwork.

Rainbow Fish

“The Rainbow Fish” written and illustrated by Swiss author/illustrator Marcus Pfister, and translated by J. Alison James (Copyright 1992, North-South Books) is a vintage favorite of mine that is still widely available. After rudely refusing to share just one of his shiny scales, the beautiful and proud Rainbow Fish becomes lonely when the other fish start to avoid him. Taking the advice of a wise octopus, Rainbow Fish soon learns that sharing what he has with others is a sure path to finding friends and happiness. I can’t imagine this book without the beautiful, sparkling illustrations that children find so fascinating. A timeless classic!