Tag Archives: picture books

For Mama: Books for Mother’s Day

Today is Mother’s Day and what better way to celebrate than through all of the literature the celebrates mothers. Moms appear in a lot of children’s literature as they are primary caretakers for so many children. What got me thinking about this post, other than it being Mother’s Day, is the classic book by Robert Munsch – Love You Forever. We had two copies of this on our house because moms love it and kids like to hear about how much they are loved. This story still brings a tear to my eye.

Not all stories about moms are the same because not all moms are the same. Some of the best stories about moms talk about all the different moms about there and how they love us, no matter who they are and no matter if we try to flush their keys down the toilet. Here are some of my favorites:

  • Mom and Me by Marla Konrad. For very little ones, this picture books shows moms and kids from all over the world and the love that they share. Though it does not identify location or culture, the photos show children how different moms still do many of the same things.
  • Mama’s Kiss by Jane Yolen. The always fantastic Yolen shares the hilarious tale of what happens when Mama’s kiss does hit its target and instead starts to travel the world.
  • Mother Number Zero by Marjolijn Hof. A recent chapter book for older readers, Mother Number Zero explores the issues of adoption and wanting to know all of ones mothers.
  • Brushing Mom’s Hair by Andrea Cheng. Another chapter book for older readers, this verse novel explores the emotions of Ann as her mother deals with breast cancer.
  • I have already mentioned the fabulous Mommy, Mama, and Me by Lesléa Newman in my post about GLBTQ lit, but Mother’s Day means it deserves another mention. Along the same lines check out Molly’s Family by Nancy Garden about drawing exactly what your family is to you and In Our Mothers’ House by Patricia Polacco, which deals with adoption as well as same sex parenting and the love and challenges that go with both.

There are almost as many stories about moms as there are moms. No matter what form your family takes – happy Mother’s Day and happy reading!

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Happy Birthday to Me: Books about Birthdays

Today is my birthday and as much as I love mine, I know children love theirs more. Because of this love, birthdays are a common topic in children’s literature, from the parties that make their lives to the embarrassing moments that make them wish their birthday had never happened. Here are some great stories about birthdays:

  • 11 Birthdays by Wendy Mass. Imagine having your birthday happen over and over again. Sounds like fun, right? Well, what if it was the worst day of your life and your former friend and birthdaymate was going through the same thing? A funny story about friendship, and time, go awry. Finally is the sequel and though the main character is different, birthdays still play a prominent role.
  • Scaredy Squirrel Has a Birthday Party by Melanie Watt. For younger kids, this is a hilarious tale of what to do and not do at a birthday party (answer: sit quietly) that you didn’t even want to have. This is a great addition to the other Scaredy Squirrel stories and will be appreciated by shy kids who haven’t always had the easiest time at birthday parties.
  • A Party for Papa Luis/Una Fiesta para Papa Luis by Diana Gonzales Bertrand. A bilingual cumulative tale tells the story of the preparations for Papa Luis’ birthday fiesta!
  • Fancy Nancy and the Fabulous Fashion Boutique by Jane O’Connor. What’s a post about birthdays without a Fancy Nancy book? When her sister’s birthday party takes a bad turn, Fancy Nancy helps out with her fabulous fashion sense and products from her front yard boutique.

Celebrate birthdays all year with these fun stories.

Focus on the Illustrator: Il Sung Na

I mentioned Il Sung Na back in my post about spring, but I’ve recently had a chance to look at more of Na’s work and I am still impressed. The paint like layers lend texture to the illustrations and each part seems to play delicately with the others. Na has created worlds of every day animals rendered anew, whether they are sleeping as they are in A Book of Sleep or an elephant that can’t figure out an umbrella like in The Thingamabob.

Though Na does not have many works to look through yet (book number 5, Hide and Seek, comes out in July), they are all beautiful and are as lovely to read as they are to look at. Again, I highly recommend Spring Rabbit, Snow Rabbit, which really works for any season.

The delicate illustrations will draw children in. Watch how the rabbit changes or how the fish keeps its eyes open in sleep. These books are really wonders to behold.

Excellent GLBTQ Lit for Children

For far too many years, children’s literature has lacked any kind of breadth in the field of GLBTQ literature. Though the tide is turning, it can still be difficult to find good, appropriate GLBTQ literature for kids. These books generally come in two categories – books for children in gay families and books for children who are themselves gay or questioning. Both types allow children to be comfortable in who they are and who their families are and have their lives represented in the books that they read.

The ALA has helped with The Stonewall Book Award, which has a category for children and young adults. This would be my first stop for new literature, especially for finding stories for and about GLBTQ youth. A couple of great resources for children of gay families, either for the kids themselves or the parents, is the Gay-Themed Picture Books for Children blog and Rainbow Sauce’s Children’s Books for Gay and Lesbian Parents.

For my part, I have read some excellent books lately. Much of what I remember from my childhood is Daddy’s Roommate and Heather Has Two Mommies. While these are good, seminal works, the range has expanded to fantasy literature as well as many other genres of children’s literature. Here are some of the new(er) ones that I’m loving:

  • King & King and King & King & Family by Linda de Haan. Both of these express, through the folkloric tradition of kings and queens, how love can be found in different forms and families.
  • And Tango Makes Three by Peter Parnell. Based on a true story of two male penguins who adopt an abandoned egg and raise the baby, Tango, together. I love this story of alternative family structures, especially through the easy to understand form of animals.
  • My Princess Boy (A Mom’s Story About a Young Boy Who Loves to Dress Up) by Cheryl Kilodavis. One of the most endearing stories I have ever read, the faceless boy loves to dress up and he has been both mocked and accepted. It’s up to the reader to decide how to treat him and all princess boys. This is truly a story of acceptance of those who break gender norms. 10,000 Dresses by Marcus Ewert is in a similar vein.
  • Mommy, Mama, and Me by Lesléa Newman. Newman is probably best known for Heather Has Two Mommies. This is a fantastic board book about a lesbian couple raising their baby. It’s wonderful to have books for children so young where they can see their own family structure represented. Newman also has Daddy, Papa, and Me.

The field is expanding and different gender representations and family structures are being represented more and more. The books I listed above should be a part of any library and your children’s literature collection.

Turning Kids Green: Sustainability Literature

Sustainability is a buzz word these days, but the concepts are important, especially to children. After all, much of what people are trying to do with sustainable practices is make the world a better place (and still exist) for the children of today when they grow up and their children and so on.

While sustainability is big conceptually, if you break it down into categories, you’ll find that there is a lot of great literature out there for kids in areas like recycling, home gardening, and biking and easy sustainable practices. All of these books help children understand that they can be a part of the solution and sometimes, they can take charge too. Check it out!

Recycling

Home Gardening

  • Dig, Plant, Grow: A Kid’s Guide to Gardening by Felder Rushing and Growing a Garden by Marie Schuh are both excellent resources as they provide hands on tips for children trying to start either their own garden, or help out with the family’s.
  • Yucky Worms by Vivian French. This fun picture book explains the importance of worms to a garden.
  • The Garden Project by Margaret McNamara is an easy reader about a class coming together to plan and work a garden.
  • In the Garden by Peggy Collins.  This picture book shows how much fun gardening can be and is ideal for prereaders to early readers.

Biking and Easy Sustainable Practices

Swept Away: Books About the Ocean

I just finished reading Heart of a Samurai by Margi Preus and I loved it. It’s a story of a young Japanese boy who is shipwrecked with his friends and goes on a great adventure that finds him traveling the world on a whaling ship. Throughout the story the reader comes across whaling and sailor lingo and it really gives you the feeling of a life at sea. It got me thinking about other books about the ocean. As the weather starts to get warmer, a life at sea, or at least at the beach, starts to sound like great idea. Here are some good ones you should check out:

  • Turtle in Paradise by Jennifer L. Holm. This Newbery Honor book takes place in the Florida Keys and you really get the feel of Conch culture, which involves a lot of fishing and a lot of nicknames.
  • I Wonder Why the Sea is Salty: and Other Questions About the Ocean by Anita Ganeri. I love this book. It answers so many questions kids have about the world above and below the sea and is in an easy to use format.
  • Out of the Ocean by Debra Frasier. A picture book about a mother and daughter walking on the beach, the simple text and bright pictures make the treasures they find just that much more entertaining.
  • 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea by Jules Verne, retold by Jaqueline Morley. A classic retold in graphic novel format, Verne’s story has never seemed more exciting.

As the weather gets warmer, look to the ocean for reading inspiration.

Focus on the Illustrator: Eric Carle

I’ve realized that throughout this blog, I’ve mentioned Eric Carle a number of times. When talking about children’s literature with non-librarians, when I mention him, all I have to say is The Very Hungry Caterpillar and they know who I am talking about. His style is written in the memories of many children and his dedication to children’s learning is impressive.

Like many of my favorite illustrators, Carle is also an author. He has, through writing and illustrating, been involved in more than 70 different books and his stories have been translated into dozens of languages.

What makes Carle such an important influence of children’s literature? In my opinion, it’s how he writes for children and, more importantly in this blog post, how he illustrates. Using a unique collage style, his illustrations are always very colorful and very interesting to look at. His focus on nature, as seen through The Very Hungry Caterpillar, The Tiny Seed, The Mixed-Up Chameleon, and The Very Lonely Firefly, among many others, is something that children love to read about.

Carle is not something new to most readers, but he is someone to pay attention to. Through his many board books, he has taught many children about concepts such as shapes, colors, sounds, and the alphabet. His legacy is so great that he has a museum dedicated to his work. Another great part of Carle’s style is how children love to emulate it. An idea for a lesson plan is to read some of his works and then try to make collages using his hand painted paper style. It’s another way to connect kids to literature and make them a part of it.