PICTURE BOOK FAVORITES ABOUT LIBRARIES

A wise librarian once told me that the mission of a library is about so much more than lending books; it’s also about getting to know the patrons and connecting them with books they’ll want to share with others. This month’s picture book favorites feature libraries (and librarians) doing what they do best, bringing readers and books together. Enjoy!

“Bunny’s Book Club” written by Annie Silvestro and illustrated by Tatjana Mai-Wyss (Copyright 2017, Doubleday Books for Young Readers) is about a book-loving rabbit named Bunny. All summer long, he hid in the bushes outside the library and imagined himself having adventures just like the ones the librarian read to the children. In the fall, when story time moved inside the library, Bunny missed the books so much that he climbed through the book return door to be near them. Luckily, the library was closed at the time. Before long, he came back out through the book return, bringing several books he had chosen to borrow. After many more nightly trips to the library, he shared his secret with some curious friends, who joined him for a “field trip” to see the library for themselves. They were all so busy that no one noticed the librarian coming in the front door. Shocked and scared at being caught, they prepared for the worst. The librarian explained to them that “all libraries have rules,” before she gave each of them a library card. The book concludes with a two-page spread showing Bunny and his friends during a meeting of “Bunny’s Book Club.” This sweet story, with illustrations that will have you lingering to enjoy them, is a picture book treasure.

“Miss Dorothy and Her Bookmobile” written by Gloria Houston and illustrated (beautifully) by Susan Condie Lamb (Copyright 2011, HarperCollins Children’s Books) is based on the life of Dorothy Thomas, whose love of books and people inspired her at a young age to become a librarian. Soon after graduating college, she married and relocated to the mountains of North Carolina. There she found plenty of friends and neighbors who shared her love of reading, but there was no library. Eventually, her friends and neighbors pooled their resources and bought a bookmobile, agreeing that Dorothy would be their librarian. She spent many years sharing her love of books while driving the bookmobile through hills and valleys to visit schools, farms, post offices, grocery stores, churches, parking lots, factories, and even the courthouse steps. When one of her patrons donated a little white house to serve as the community’s new library, people came from near and far to visit the place where Miss Dorothy would share her love of books (and people) with them. To me, this book underscores the importance of small-town libraries and the librarians who dedicate themselves to breathing life into them.

“The Children Who Loved Books” written and illustrated by Peter Carnavas (Copyright 2013, Kane Miller division of EDC Publishing) tells the story of two children, Angus and Lucy, who “didn’t have very much.” The truth was that their family didn’t have things like televisions, cars, or even a regular sized house, but they did have hundreds of books. When Angus and Lucy’s father decided that books were taking up too much space in their tiny home, he got rid of them. The distance this created between the family caused things to be different for a while, until Lucy brought a book home from the library. Sitting together that evening, the family listened as Dad read the story to them. They soon realized that the book had brought them close to each other again. The next morning, Dad took his family to the library, where they found all the books they would ever need. This simple story is a gentle reminder that books can take us just about anywhere we want to go, while bringing us together at the same time.

 If you have a favorite picture book about libraries (or librarians) to recommend, I’d love to hear about it.

Happy reading! 😊

PICTURE BOOK FAVORITES TO TICKLE YOUR FUNNY BONE

Picture book authors and illustrators devote themselves to making books that connect with the hearts and minds of those who read them. This month’s favorites succeeded, in my opinion, because they all brought a smile to my face and laughter to my heart. I hope they’ll do the same for you. Enjoy!

“Bear Came Along” written by Richard T. Morris and illustrated by LeUyen Pham (Copyright 2019, Little, Brown and Company) is a story about a bear who finds several new friends while on an accidental adventure. When the tree Bear is sitting on breaks and falls into the river, he is joined for a log ride by the many different woodland creatures he passes during his journey. These unlikely friends find themselves sharing the wild ride of a lifetime . . . over a waterfall. They hold onto each other, soon discovering the fun times that await them when they work together in spite of their differences. The watercolor, ink, and gouache illustrations carry the emotions of the ride to a perfectly joyful, color-filled ending, reminding readers that sometimes the happiest of adventures can happen by accident.

“No Fuzzball!” written and illustrated by Isabella Kung (Copyright 2020, Orchard Books imprint of Scholastic, Inc.) is a book that will resonate with cat lovers everywhere. It is the story of Fuzzball, a self-described “queen,” who thinks that her subjects “worship her and scream her name everywhere she goes.” Although she thinks it’s her name, they are actually screaming, “No Fuzzball,” because she often creates chaos in her “queendom,” where, in her eyes, there is “total harmony.” She spends her days being entertained, fed, groomed, messaged, and showered with gifts by the family who loves her. When they pack up and leave her alone overnight, she awakens from a long nap to wonder where they’ve gone and what has happened to them. After having a pity party, she decides to prepare for their return in a way that only a cat (or dog) who has been left home alone can do. The relatable, comical illustrations tell the story as her family returns, giving her a welcome hug before they notice what she’s done to the house and scream “No Fuzzball,” which in her mind is their way of telling her they love her. This story is a funny reminder that perception is reality, especially if you’re a cat. 

“Sheep Dog and Sheep Sheep” written and illustrated by Eric Barclay (Copyright 2019, Harper imprint of HarperCollins Publishers) is the story of an oblivious little sheep, who is so busy dancing through life that she often closes her eyes and bumps into things. When she bumps into a sheep dog, she thinks he needs help. While she tries to “fix” him, he’s busy protecting her from an eagle, a coyote, and the hazards of dancing with her eyes closed. Once she’s given him the tools that she thinks he’ll need when watching sheep, she realizes that there are no sheep to watch. Considering herself an expert on watching sheep, she looks for the sheep herself, thinking he must have lost them. After a while, he explains to her that she is the only sheep, but that maybe she is supposed to be watching him instead. She agrees, concluding that since she is so good at watching dogs, she is, of course, a “dog sheep.”

“The Wonky Donkey” written by Craig Smith and illustrated by Katz Cowley (Copyright 2009, Scholastic, Inc.) isn’t just a book, it’s a container for sharing laughter and joy. This book was born when an unknown author paired with an unknown illustrator and they landed a book deal with a well-known publisher. The stars aligned again for this duo when a viral video of a Scottish grandmother, who was laughing hysterically while reading the book aloud to her grandson, turned their book into a best-seller. In the picture book world, this is like winning the lottery. But…all the attention is well-deserved because hilarity ensues as you turn the 24-pages of this book and learn why this special donkey is so very wonky. Originally written as a song, this cumulative story features repetitive wording that combines wonderfully with the comical, expressive illustrations to make this book a great tongue-twisting read-aloud. Whether you read the story for yourself or choose to watch the video (or maybe both), this book is a treasure.  

If you have a favorite funny picture book to recommend, I’d love to hear about it.

Happy reading! 😊

PICTURE BOOK FAVORITES THAT WERE RELEASED IN 2020

Each month, I check my local library’s website for newly added picture books. It’s one of the ways I keep up with what’s out there in the marketplace, while also finding new books for my reading list. This month’s favorites have the distinction of being released in the past year; but more importantly, they stood out to me in a way that made me want to share them with you. My hope is that you’ll go beyond my blog to read them for yourselves. Enjoy!

“Harry and the Guinea Pig” written by Nancy Lambert and illustrated by Saba Joshaghani (Copyright 2020, Harper imprint of HarperCollins) uses the classic style of the original team, Gene Zion and Margaret Bloy Graham, to bring vintage favorite, Harry the Dirty Dog, back for his first new adventure in over fifty years. When the children are pet sitting a neighbor’s guinea pig, Harry feels ignored. He tries to look, act, and play like a guinea pig, but ends up being sent outside for making a mess. The next day, Harry is excited to go to school with the children for show-and-tell, but becomes disappointed when he discovers that the guinea pig is also going. While no one in the classroom is looking, Harry tries to climb into the cage with the guinea pig so the children will have to notice him, but he doesn’t fit and the guinea pig escapes. Knowing the escape was his fault, Harry follows the clues and tracks down the escaped guinea pig by lunchtime, getting the attention of the children while sharing the show-and-tell spotlight for his “clever detective work.” I love that this timeless character is returning to entertain a new generation of readers!

“Share Some Kindness, Bring Some Light” written and illustrated by Apryl Stott (Copyright 2020, Simon & Schuster) is a beautifully illustrated story about acceptance and kindness. Coco has a new friend named Bear, who is not only very kind–he’s also a good dancer. Bear shares with Coco that the other animals are afraid of him because he is so big. Coco comes up with a plan, based on a saying from her grandmother, to show them that Bear is good and kind, not scary at all. The two of them decide to “share some kindness and bring some light” by baking cookies and making lanterns to give away. As they set out in the winter snow to share their gifts, Bear is scared. Coco tells him not to let it stop him from giving. Their gifts don’t seem to work and one-by-one, they are turned away by all the animals. On their way home, they hear a cry for help. Following the sound, they find Baby Deer, who is stuck in the snow. While taking Baby Deer back to her home, they encounter the other animals, who are using the lanterns they’d given them to help Mama Deer with the search. Seeing for themselves how he helped Baby Deer makes the other animals realize what a good thing it is that Bear is so “big, brave, friendly, and kind.” Bear and Coco discover that “kindness is about giving away love instead of gifts . . . doing something nice from the heart without expecting to get anything in return.” The story ends with Bear, Coco, and their new friends sharing a fun dance together in the lantern light of a snowy night.

“I Am the Storm” written by Jane Yolen and Heidi E. Y. Stemple and illustrated by Kristen and Kevin Howdeshell (Copyright 2020, Rise x Penguin Workshop) is a colorful book about the ability of humans to seek out safety in the face of nature’s power during a tornado, a blizzard, a wildfire, and a hurricane. The illustrations, sketched in pencil and finished using Photoshop with a Wacom tablet, present people and circumstances that will be familiar to many young readers. The story uses descriptive text about what occurs during each weather event, followed by the comforting thought that they always eventually stop, and that life goes on afterward. Knowing that it’s okay to be scared, the children in the book use expressive play to empower themselves, mimicking the weather they’ve witnessed by becoming strong and powerful like the storm, then calm when it passes, “as it always does.”  The story is followed by two end-pages that briefly describe tornadoes, blizzards, wildfires, and hurricanes, so that young readers can better understand them.

“Cozy” written and illustrated by Jan Brett (Copyright 2020, G.P Putnam’s Sons imprint of Penguin Random House, LLC) is a story that was born out of Jan Brett’s visit to the Musk Ox Farm in Palmer, Alaska. The main character is named Cozy because of the soft, thick, silky coat of fur that covers him in a blanket of warmth. While separated from his herd, a winter storm causes many animals to find refuge in Cozy’s fur coat. With each new addition, Cozy adds rules that help the animals respect each other during their time together. As winter continues, and the animals make themselves more and more at home in his fur, Cozy begins wishing he could return to his family. The rules become stretched as the animals grow tired of each other’s company, and Cozy begins to shed his coat, a sure sign that spring is arriving. As his fur continues to shed, the animals also leave to look for new homes. When Cozy celebrates his freedom by leaping into the air, he sees his herd in the distance. He soon joins them, hearing the voices of his new friends on the breeze, reminding him that they’ll see him again “when the snow flies.” In true Jan Brett style, the text and illustrations complement each other seamlessly into what will no doubt be another classic.

If you have a favorite 2020 picture book release to recommend, I’d love to hear about it.

Happy Reading 😊

PICTURE BOOK FAVORITES WITH WINTER THEMES

Until today, the only place I’ve been able to find any snow this winter is inside the pages of winter-themed picture books. Well . . . it’s finally snowing here, making this the perfect time for a warm fire, a cup of hot chocolate, and sharing this month’s picture book favorites with you. Enjoy!

“Red Sled” written and illustrated by Lita Judge (Copyright 2011, Athenium Books for Young Readers) uses pictures and descriptive words, such as the “scrunch, scrunch” sound that is made when walking in the snow, to present the story of a bear who borrows a child’s sled from outside a cabin and is soon joined by other curious woodland animals for an exciting winter’s night of sledding. Dual-page illustrations had me following along to see which woodland animals would be joining the ride next as I turned each page. The moonlit snow scenes are simply beautiful and the expression-filled faces of the animals having such a joyful time together had me laughing out loud. In the end, the bear and friends return the sled to its resting place outside the cabin, leaving only footprints in the snow for the child to find. Such a fun read!

“A Little Bit of Winter” written by Paul Stewart and illustrated by Chris Riddell (Copyright 1999, Harper Collins Publishers) is a story about two friends, Rabbit and Hedgehog, who are about to be separated for the winter. Rabbit will miss his friend, who doesn’t even know what winter feels like because he spends every winter sleeping. Hedgehog scratches a reminder into the bark of a tree asking Rabbit to save “a little bit of winter” to share with him when he wakes up. After a heavy snowfall, Rabbit leaves his warm burrow to look for food. Seeing Hedgehog’s reminder on the tree, he rolls a snowball, wrapping it in leaves “to keep the cold in” before taking it underground. When spring arrives and the two friends meet again, Rabbit unwraps the snowball, giving it to Hedgehog, who finally gets to experience the “hard, white, and cold” of winter as he holds “a little bit of winter” in his paws. The sweet illustrations are a joy from start to finish as Hedgehog receives two gifts from his friend, the coldness of winter snow and the warmth of an enduring friendship.

“Sugar White Snow and Evergreens: A Winter Wonderland of Color” written by Felicia Sanzari Chernesky and illustrated by Susan Swan (Copyright 2014, Albert Whitman and Company) is a rhyming story about a rainbow of colors made brighter against the backdrop of sugary white winter snow. Beginning with the view from a frosty window, each page-turn brings new colors into focus as a family takes a trip through the snow to visit a maple farm. The vivid details of this book’s impressive illustrations had me going back to take a second look.

“Winter is the Warmest Season” written and illustrated by Lauren Stringer (Copyright 2006, Harcourt, Inc.) displays some of the many contrasts between summer and winter to present the idea that winter truly is “the warmest season.” With examples that include snuggly warm winter clothes, wonderfully warm winter foods, the warmth of sitting by a fire, cuddled up with a good book and a warm pet, the warmth of friends and family sharing winter holidays, hot baths followed by warm pajamas, and warm beds topped with blankets and quilts. The book concludes with dreams of a summer swim, just to cool things off. This talented author/illustrator strikes a balance with colorful, happy illustrations that will have you smiling about the many ways that warmth can be found in this coldest of seasons.

If you have a favorite winter-themed picture book to recommend, I’d love to hear about it.

Happy New Year 😊  

PICTURE BOOK FAVORITES ABOUT CHRISTMAS

Trying to celebrate a holiday season that includes masks, social distancing, and potential shut-downs might have you feeling like the spirit of Christmas is nowhere to be found this year. May I suggest setting aside some time to enjoy the spirit that can always be found on the pages of Christmas picture books? My Christmas wish is that this month’s picture book favorites will not only bring you some cheer, but also help prepare you for what will surely be a Christmas like no other, a 2020 Christmas. Enjoy!

“The Christmas Barn” written and illustrated by John and Jennifer Churchman (Copyright 2020, Little Bee Books) begins with an autumn storm that causes an old pine tree to fall in the forest. Farmer John and his wife, Jennifer, decide to give the old tree a new life by using it to make a “special Christmas gift” for the animals. Complemented beautifully by photo-illustration, the story follows the process, as observed by the farm animals, of transforming the fallen pine tree into a new home for them. On Christmas Eve, they are welcomed inside, where a special bed is waiting for Joy the alpaca, who gives birth that night to a tiny cria that Farmer John names Hope. The story ends with the old pine tree having truly become “a Christmas barn for everyone.” At the end of the book are two pages describing Moonrise Farm in Vermont and the true story that inspired this heartwarming book. To learn more, please visit http://www.themoonrisefarm.com.

“Mistletoe: A Christmas Story” written and illustrated by Tadd Hills (Copyright 2020, Schwartz & Wade Books) celebrates Christmas with a snow-loving mouse named Mistletoe and her best friend, an elephant named Norwell. When snow begins to fall and it finally “feels like Christmas,” Mistletoe asks Norwell to come outside and play. Norwell, thinking it’s too cold, gets her to come inside instead, where they share a warm fire, have tea and cookies, and decorate his Christmas tree together. On her way home, Mistletoe has an idea for the perfect Christmas gift for her friend. After much hard work, she finishes it just in time for Christmas. When they exchange gifts, Norwell gives Mistletoe a painting that pictures her standing in snow, because she loves snow. She gives him a colorful snowsuit that she knitted so he would be warm while they’re out walking together in the snow. This sweet book, with its cheerful illustrations that were created in the Procreate digital app, shows the fun of sharing Christmastime with friends.

 “If I Could Give You Christmas” written by Lynn Plourde and illustrated by Jennifer L. Meyer (Copyright 2019, Disney Hyperion imprint of Disney Book Group) presents some of the tastes, sights, smells, and sounds of the Christmas season as animals in the winter forest celebrate the joy that can be found in sharing them with each other. This book, with gorgeous illustrations that will have you pausing to admire them, also serves as a reminder that the best gifts of all “don’t have a bow.”  

“The Christmas Story” written by Jane Werner Watson and illustrated by Eloise Wilkin (Copyright 1952, Golden Books, renewed 1980, Penguin Random House) is a timeless vintage retelling of the biblical account of Christ’s birth, told in a storybook that is also filled with wonderfully memorable, detailed illustrations. Jane Werner Watson (1915-2004) served as the editor of the original Little Golden Books, while writing quite a few of them as well. One of my all-time favorite illustrators, Eloise Wilkin (1904-1987), illustrated dozens of Little Golden Books during her long career.  

If you have a favorite picture book about Christmas to recommend, I’d love to hear about it.

Merry Christmas 😊  

PICTURE BOOK FAVORITES FOR HOLIDAY GIVING

Picture books make great gifts. When you buy them to give away, you’re also helping support the talented authors and illustrators who’ve worked so hard to bring them to the marketplace. As I put a spotlight on a few of my own seasonal favorites in this month’s post, I hope you’ll consider adding picture books to your gift list this holiday season. Enjoy!

“Merry Christmas, Squirrels!” written and illustrated by Nancy Rose (Copyright 2015, Little, Brown, and Company) follows Mr. Peanuts, a squirrel who is “full of Christmas spirit,” as he goes on an adventure to visit his Cousin Squirrel’s house for some holiday fun. The old saying “a picture is worth a thousand words” really does apply here when trying to describe the entertaining antics captured by author and photographer Nancy Rose’s camera. Using handmade sets and hidden peanuts, Nancy expertly motivates her backyard squirrel friends into doing what they do best — being curious! For more about Nancy’s fascinating work, visit www.secretlifeofsquirrels.com, where you’ll also find a 2021 calendar for sale that was inspired by her “nutty” books.

“Tractor Mac, Harvest Time” written and illustrated by Billy Steers (Copyright 2007, Farrar Straus Giroux Books for Young Readers) is from the Tractor Mac series of picture books, whose author and illustrator happened to grow up on a farm. In this autumn-themed installment, Tractor Mac and his friends “share the work and share the fun,” of bringing a harvest of apples and pumpkins to neighboring fall festival celebrations. As an added bonus, the front and back of the book’s interior cover pages contain detailed illustrations of a cider press and a tractor with each part individually labeled. To learn more about Billy Steers or the Tractor Mac series, visit www.billysteers.com, where you’ll also find games and printable activities to go along with the books.

“The Christmas Truck” written by the staff at Thomas Nelson and illustrated by Alex Willmore (Copyright 2019, Thomas Nelson) celebrates some of the sights and sounds of Christmas as the Christmas Truck and friends choose a tree that is “just right” to bring back home and decorate together. Cheerful, color-filled illustrations complement the fun rhyming story to make this board book a great “read-to” for little ones.

“Good Night, Santa: A Magical Christmas Story” written by Dawn Sirett and illustrated by Kitty Glavin (2019, DK Publishing) is a novelty rhyming board book featuring a light-up cover of Santa in his sleigh as he travels through the night sky. Beautifully illustrated using the theme of a snow-filled garden cast in shadow by the light of the moon, it is the story of a little girl and her favorite teddy bear going on a Christmas Eve journey to find Santa and tell him goodnight. After meeting several woodland creatures and telling each of them good night, the little girl discovers that Santa will only come to visit after she is asleep.

For more holiday picture book favorites, please look back at my previous years’ posts.

If you have a favorite holiday-themed picture book that would also make a great gift, I’d love to hear about it.

Happy Reading 😊

PICTURE BOOK FAVORITES THAT ENCOURAGE CREATIVE PLAY

This month’s picture book favorites demonstrate how easily a child’s imagination can change something ordinary into something fun. Creative play prepares children for the future by helping them build self-confidence, while also developing other valuable life skills such as concentration, problem-solving, patience, and sharing. The next time you hear the dreaded words, “I’m bored,” consider it an opportunity to encourage young imaginations to dream up some new, creative ways to play. Enjoy!

“National Regular Average Ordinary Day” written by Lisa Katzenberger and illustrated by Barbara Bakos (Copyright 2020, Penguin Workshop) is the story of a boy named Peter, who becomes bored with playing the same familiar games. Since he loves holidays, Peter thinks he will have more fun if he celebrates a new holiday each day. Things are going well, until the day comes when he has run out of holidays to celebrate. He solves this problem by using his imagination to make up some new ones. Eventually, Peter grows tired of holidays altogether and is bored once again. As he is sitting in a cardboard box, doing nothing, his imagination takes over, transforming the box and sending him on a variety of fun-filled adventures. Later, when a friend rides by on a bike, Peter decides to join him and the neighborhood kids for some “regular, average, ordinary games,” and soon finds that ordinary days can be worth celebrating too. This colorfully illustrated story highlights the value of imagination and creative play in the celebration of life’s ordinary days.

“What to Do with a Box” written by Jane Yolen and illustrated by Chris Sheban (Copyright 2016, by Creative Editions) is described as “Jane Yolen’s poetic tribute to the humble box.” Since a box is just a box, until a child’s imagination gets involved, I think this book is also a tribute to children. When a boy, a girl, and a dog come across an empty cardboard box, magic happens. This rhyming story is complemented by cardboard-themed illustrations that show a child’s imagination turning the simple box into a portal for adventure, becoming such things as a library, a palace, a nook, a canvas for coloring and painting, a tea room for dolls, a sailboat, a race car, and a magical flying machine. For those of us who’ve ever bought a gift for a child, only to discover that they’d rather just play with the box, this story is a reminder that imagination is the greatest gift a child will ever receive.

“Bobby’s Magic Blanket” written by Helen Frances Stanley and illustrated by Haris Petie (Copyright 1973, Rand McNally & Company) is the classic vintage story of a boy, a dog, and a blanket. Bobby’s imagination brings fun and adventure as his “magic blanket” becomes a canoe, a raft, a magic carpet, a tepee, and a cave, while also helping Bobby pretend to be a caterpillar in a cocoon, a butterfly, a bird, a jet plane, and a super hero. At the end of Bobby’s day, after the blanket has been used as a knapsack for picking up his toys, it keeps him warm while he dreams of having even more adventures. I love the way Haris Petie’s beautiful illustrations show the relationship between Bobby and his pet dachshund, who seems to thoroughly enjoy being there, and ends the day curled up on the blanket next to Bobby. Although this book probably isn’t found in libraries anymore, I did see a few copies available for sale online. As you can see in the picture, my forty-seven-year-old copy isn’t in great shape, but it is still worth sharing as a timeless example of creative play.

If you have a favorite picture book that encourages creative play, I’d love to hear about it.

Happy Reading 😊 

PICTURE BOOK FAVORITES ABOUT MINDFULNESS

One of the great things about picture books is their ability to help us see the world through someone else’s eyes. Whether it’s finding new uses for a little paper bag, bringing clean drinking water to those who need it, or helping baby sea turtles find their way home, I hope you’ll see the value, as I do, in challenging ourselves to help make the world we share a better place. Enjoy!

One Little Bag

“One Little Bag: An Amazing Journey” author illustrated in ink by Henry Cole (Copyright 2020, Scholastic Press) is a beautiful story without words that was inspired by an experience from the author’s own life. The pictures tell the story of a small paper bag, made from a tree in the forest, finding “a well-used, well-recycled life” when it is shared and reused again and again by three generations of the same family. Beginning with a little boy’s first day of school, the bag becomes a cherished and loved container of countless objects and memories. Many years later, the family returns the little bag to the earth, holding a small tree that is being planted. Considering the amount of time, resources, and energy that are required to create things like paper lunch bags, and that they are often used only once, this book encourages us to be mindful of the waste we create when we discard things before their usefulness is gone. Henry Cole has a degree in forestry, taught elementary-school science for sixteen years, and is an award-winning author and illustrator. To find out more about his work, please visit henrycole.net.

The Water Princess

“The Water Princess” written by Susan Verde and illustrated by Peter H. Reynolds (Copyright 2016, by G.P. Putnam’s Sons imprint of Penguin Random House) was inspired by the childhood experiences of Georgie Badiel, high-fashion model and founder of the Georgie Badiel Foundation. In the story, Princess Gie Gie dreams of bringing a source of clean drinking water to her beloved African village. Each day, Gie Gie and her mother join many other women and girls in walking a great distance from their homes to a well, where they gather the day’s water and carry it back home to their families. The illustrations in watercolor, using gouache and digital inks with hand-lettering by Mr. Reynolds, present the challenges of a life without water in a way that helps bring awareness to this ongoing problem. To learn more about those who are working to help solve the water crisis in Africa and around the world, please visit www.ryanswell.ca and georgiebadielfoundation.org.

Follow the Moon Home

“Follow the Moon Home” written by Philippe Cousteau and Deborah Hopkinson and illustrated in watercolor, colored ink, and colored pencils by Meilo So (Copyright 2016, Chronicle Books) is the story of a little girl named Vivienne, who discovers that sometimes we all need some help finding our way. Having just moved to a new school, Vivienne takes part in a class problem-solving project where she and her classmates are joined by the community in trying to help save loggerhead sea turtle babies during the nesting season. The title of the book refers to the way that newly hatched baby loggerhead turtles instinctively go toward the strongest light they see. When that light is the moon, they follow it out to the ocean where they belong. One of the co-authors of this book is the grandson of famous explorer, Jacques Cousteau, who challenged him “to go out and explore the world.” Philippe and his sister, Alexandra, founded an organization, EarthEcho International, as a resource for kids who are interested in protecting the environment. For more information, please visit www.earthecho.org.

If you have a favorite picture book that has inspired you to live mindfully, I’d love to hear about it.

Happy Reading 😊

PICTURE BOOK FAVORITES INSPIRED BY TRUE STORIES

This month’s picture book favorites are fictional animal stories that were inspired by real-life events. They serve as a reminder that friendship and the devotion that comes from loving and being loved isn’t exclusive to humans. I hope you’ll find these books and read them for yourself. They touched my heart and the stories behind them gave me a greater appreciation for the wisdom of animals. Enjoy!

Ida, Always

“Ida, Always” written by Caron Levis and illustrated by Charles Santoso (Copyright 2016, Atheneum Books for Young Readers) is a story inspired by the relationship of real polar bears named Gus and Ida, who were visited by more than twenty million people while they lived together in New York’s Central Park Zoo. This fictional tribute shows readers the happy life of two bear friends who enjoy tossing a ball, swimming and splashing, and sitting together on their favorite rock. Each day, they are cared for by loving zookeepers and visited by many people, while the familiar sounds of “their city” surround them. Each night, they go to their caves, always to meet again in the morning. Things change when Ida becomes sick, with no hope of getting better. As they spend their remaining days together, Gus comes to know that Ida will always be with him through the sights, sounds, and memories they have shared.

This Way, Charlie

“This Way, Charlie” also written by Caron Levis and illustrated by Charles Santoso (Copyright 2020, Abrams Books for Young Readers) is another heartwarming book by this perfectly paired writer and illustrator. It is the tale of two unlikely friends, a blind horse named Charlie and a nervous goat named Jack. When Charlie is brought to the Open Bud Ranch to “heal, rest, and grow,” Jack, who is a loner, watches him struggle from a distance. Eventually, Jack finds the courage to approach Charlie, and begins leading him around the ranch. As the days go on, they become inseparable friends, helping each other find their way through the challenges of life. Each beautiful illustration, created with “digital brushes and love,” adds to the warmth and depth of this sweet story. The real Jack and Charlie lived at Wild Heart Ranch Wildlife Rescue and Rehabilitation Center in Oklahoma. For more information about Wild Heart Ranch, please visit wildheartrescue.org.

Where'd My Jo Go

“Where’d My Jo Go?” written by Jill Esbaum and illustrated by Scott Brundage (Copyright 2020, Sleeping Bear Press) is the story of a little dog named Big Al and his trucker friend and companion, Jo. It is based on a newspaper story the author read about a real-life trucker whose little lost dog patiently waited for two days before finally being found. Told in verse, the story gives the point of view of both the dog and his friend as they realize they’ve been separated and try to find each other again. Thankfully, just like in the newspaper story, these two friends are reunited for a happy ending.

If you have a favorite picture book about animals that was inspired by a true story, I’d love to hear about it.

Happy Reading 😊

PICTURE BOOK FAVORITES TO MAKE YOU LAUGH

This month’s picture book favorites are meant to provide you with a dose of laughter therapy. With so many of life’s simple pleasures having been put on pause, I challenge you to be deliberate in finding healthy ways to cope with the stress and isolation that we’re all having to endure. Since humor can help improve one’s sense of well-being, I’ve chosen to read and share some books this month that I hope will make you smile, and laugh. Enjoy!

How to Give a Cat a Bath

“How to Give Your Cat a Bath in Five Easy Steps” written by Nicola Winstanley and illustrated by John Martz (Copyright 2019, Tundra Books imprint of Penguin Random House) is a comical look at the complicated relationship between (most) cats and water. The story is told through an unseen narrator, who is trying to explain the bathing process to a little girl, while her cat, Mr. Flea, is observing and reacting to the instructions. My suggestion is to read the book all the way through, then go back and have the pictures tell the story a second time. The illustrations, created in drawn ink and colored digitally, had me laughing a second time as I watched the five “easy” steps being reduced to one simple solution at the end of the book.

The Backup Bunny

“The Backup Bunny” written by Abigail Rayner and illustrated by Greg Stones (Copyright 2018, NorthSouth Books, Inc.) is a funny story about the adventures of a toy bunny named Fluffy, who is kept hidden in Mom’s sock drawer just in case her forgetful son, Max, happens to lose his favorite stuffed rabbit. The colorful, expressive illustrations will have you laughing as Fluffy is called on to save the day, again and again.

The Day the Crayons Quit

“The Day the Crayons Quit” written by Drew Daywalt and illustrated by Oliver Jeffers (Copyright 2013, Philomel Books imprint of Penguin Young Readers Group) is the award-winning story of a boy named Duncan whose crayons left him a pile of complaint letters about the way he had been treating them. Illustrated with art created in crayon, each two-page spread contains a letter and picture that will have you laughing your way through this fun-filled book.  In the end, Duncan takes their complaints to heart as he pictures a way to make them all happy.

This month’s blog post is dedicated to my dear friend, Tina Wright, who recently passed away. She was one of my favorite people on the planet, and a wonderful friend, who made everyone she met feel special and loved.

If you have a favorite picture book that makes you laugh, I’d love to hear about it.

Happy Reading 😊