Inside: The best back to school books calm nerves, inspire giggles, and teach children what it means to be a good friend and classmate. These are some of our favorites. Check them out!Read More
If you are looking for children’s books about courage to get your kiddos through some challenging times, you have come to the right place! Check out this awesome list of books that will help your kids learn to be brave.Read More
It's April once again, which means its one of my favorite times of the year: National Poetry Month! Let's be honest: I'm far from an expert on poetry. I'm not super well versed in the form, and though sometimes I "get it," other times, I simply don't. That being said, I do find magic in poetry, even the poems that don't resonate as much as others.
Poetry makes you think.
It makes you wonder.
It makes you feel.
Whether a verse leaves you laughing or crying, scratching your head in confusion or marveling at the notion that someone else's words can capture the very essence of your being, poetry is an art form all its own that has a unique ability to set a child's imagination soaring.
Here are some of our very favorite poetry books - the ones that make us giggle til our tummies hurt or delight us with their beautiful imagery. Happy reading!
Daniel Finds a Poem, by Micha Archer: This has become the book I use to introduce National Poetry Month to my early elementary students, and every time I use it for a read aloud, it never fails to get a round of applause by each of my classes. This is a beautiful story for any child who asks you that all-important question "what is poetry?" Take your little ones on a walk through nature with Daniel and some animals, and delight in each animal's description of what poetry is to him. A forever fave!
Wet Cement: A Mix of Concrete Poems, by Bob Raczka: Concrete, or shape poetry, is always a joy to introduce to my students. They ooh and ahh over the pictures, marveling at the way the words are arranged to take the form of familiar objects. This book is a favorite in our school, and we always use it as an introduction before drafting our own concrete poetry.
I'm Just no Good at Rhyming: And Other Nonsense for Mischievous Kids and Immature Grown-ups! by Chris Harris and illustrated by Lane Smith: If you like Shel Silverstein, this new poetry collection is an absolute must. We couldn't get through some of these poems without totally cracking up, and I was blown away by the wit, creativity, word play, oxymoron, and amazing interplay between the words and the illustrations. A uniquely genius collection that is equal parts novel and nonsense.
Read Aloud Rhymes for the Very Young, by Jack Prelutsky and illustrated by Marc Brown: We read this book every night for months when my littlest was born, languishing in the lovely rhymes and delightful imagery. This is a wonderful anthology for your littlest readers; the poems are short, simple and sweet, making them perfect for tiny babes and toddlers.
Mirror Mirror: A Book of Reverso Poems, by Marilyn Singer and Josee Masse: My students are absolutely enamored with these reverso poems, which can be read in the traditional manner (from beginning to end) and then in reverse. The poems work both ways, and some of them take on deliciously new meanings when read from bottom to top. Kids will pore over the magic in each poem, and they especially love how this particular book tackles fairy tales head on.
When Green Becomes Tomatoes: Poems for all Seasons, by Julie Fogliano and illustrated by Julie Morstad: Everyone knows I adore this team, and this book simply sings. Beautiful poems spotlighting random days throughout the year convey the beauty of each season. Both starting and ending on March 20th, this is a perfect read to celebrate the wonder of each new season - and to help kids learn the seasons' unique characteristics, too.
Poems to Learn by Heart, by Caroline Kennedy and illustrated by John Muth: This is a beautiful compilation of poems, both by modern and classic poets, that help kids and families celebrate the smallest to the most momentous of occasions. A stunning collection exploring emotions big and small, this is a perfect book for your library.
Out of Wonder: Poems Celebrating Poets, by Kwame Alexander, Chris Colderley, and Marjory Wentworth and illustrated by Ekua Holmes: This is a gorgeous tribute to twenty famous poets that have inspired each of the three authors. The poems are all original pieces but pay homage to these revered poets, emulating their styles and voices. An original and ingenious gem!
Where the Sidewalk Ends, by Shel Silverstein: This classic is a must for all bookshelves. It's highly imaginative and loads of fun, and the quirky poems will be ones your children will remember forever. Who else can recite all of the words to Sick? If you love Where the Sidewalk Ends, make sure to also check out A Light in the Attic, and Runny Babbit.
Bravo! Poems About Amazing Hispanics, by Margarita Engle and illustrated by Rafael Lopez: This striking collection features both stunning illustrations and biographical poems about 18 famous Latinos, from baseball players to botanists to musicians. The poems celebrate their renowned historical contributions, as well as the impacts they continue to have on their vibrant and evolving community today.
Hi, Koo!: A Year of Seasons, by Jon J. Muth: Featuring 26 haikus about the four seasons, the well known panda from Muth’s Zen series journeys through the year. This is a fresh take on the traditional Japanese haiku, inviting young readers to stretch their creative muscles as they explore the inviting natural illustrations and simple, yet pitch perfect, prose.
One Last Word: Wisdom From the Harlem Renaissance, by Nikki Grimes: One Last Word pairs the voices of the Harlem Renaissance with Grime's unique words. Utilizing a method known as the the "Golden Shovel," Grimes' poems incorporate original stanzas from master poets into new and inventive pieces perfect for your upper elementary students. The result is astonishingly beautiful: poems that resonate deeply with the reader and touch upon issues that still plague society today - issues such as racial injustice, identity, and peer pressure.
At the end of each year I feel incredibly confident that the children’s books published over the course of the prior twelve months were the Best. Books. Ever. And every December, as I stand in front of my buckling bookshelves, I tell myself there’s no way the upcoming year will be able to top it. But, lo and behold, every year I am wrong. (Thank goodness!!) I find myself continually awestruck by the caliber of children’s literature as the seasons slide, whisper soft, one into the next. The scope and quality of picture books continue to skyrocket with every new catalogue.
This year, the stories written into our world have been replete with magic, humor and promise, evidenced so beautifully by the stars dancing in the eyes of the children (and parents!) that hug these books to their chests upon first reading. These stories contained characters more representative of our communities and neighbors, gave us hope when it felt like the world was crashing down at our feet, and inspired us in ways that only books - enchanting, wondrous books - can do. And now, without further ado, these are Happily Ever Elephants’ top twenty picture books from 2017 - the ones that touched our hearts, gave us wings when we needed to fly, and had us doubled over in laughter.
After the Fall (How Humpty Dumpty Got Back Up Again), by Dan Santat: This is probably our favorite picture book of the year - one that is both effortlessly unique and poignant. It is the story of what happens after Humpty Dumpty gets put back together and how he manages to overcome his newfound crippling fear of heights. The themes embraced here, those of anxiety, resilience, and putting oneself back together after a fall, lend themselves well to didacticism, but Santat delivers this story with a light but brilliant touch which enables the story to speak to both children and adults at varied social and emotional maturity levels. This is a masterpiece and an instant classic.
Creepy Pair of Underwear, by Aaron Reynolds and illustrated by Peter Brown: This has been on heavy rotation in our house since the day it came in the mail, so much so that when my son had to dress as a book character for a party at school he chose to go as Jasper Rabbit in his ghoulish, glowing underwear. I mean, take a pair of neon green underpants, smack a creepy, Frankenstein-esque face on them, and mail them to China, only to have them immediately returned with a pair of chopsticks. Need I say more? Your kids won’t stop laughing, and neither will you.
The Wolf, the Duck & the Mouse, by Mac Barnett and illustrated by Jon Klassen: As far as I’m concerned, there is nothing this duo can’t do. Talk about turning option B into one heck of a party! I just adore how the duck and the mouse make the very most of getting eaten by the wolf- and how they manage to outsmart him, too. “I may have been swallowed, but I have no intention of being eaten.” This may just be one of my favorite picture book lines ever!
Nerdy Birdy Tweets, by Aaron Reynolds and illustrated by Matt Davies: If you refrain from making a nasty comment to a classmate, is it ok to post that comment online instead? This is one of the awesome questions sparked by Nerdy Birdy Tweets. Reynolds and Davies have given us the perfect book about what it means to be a responsible internet user. I fell in love with this story instantly and believe it should be required reading for students of all ages -- especially those in upper elementary school who are just beginning to navigate the online world.
Wolf in the Snow, by Matthew Cordell: This nearly wordless picture book is such a beauty, and I can't get over the emotion that is conveyed in every one of Matthew Cordell's stunning illustrations. Wolf in the Snow is the perfect hero's journey for those of you new to wordless stories. It is easy to interpret yet so richly evocative. You will be amazed at the way Cordell's simplistic drawings - done in pen and ink with a bit of watercolor- tug at your heart strings and stay with you long after the final page.
Crown, An Ode to the Fresh Cut, by Derrick Barnes and illustrated by Gordon C. James: Crown blew me away on the first read through, with its striking illustrations, its fabulous pacing, and its breathtakingly phenomenal voice. From the very first sentence, Barnes transports his readers right into barbershop culture through vivid details that come to life with brilliant authenticity. It is a celebration of self-confidence and self-worth, a beautiful window into a snippet of a boy's transformation that enables him to feel recognized and powerful. The voice, the word choice, the rhythm – it is all astonishingly perfect.
On the Night of the Shooting Star, by Amy Hest and illustrated by Jenni Desmond: Everyone struggles with feelings of loneliness, and everyone has looked across a fence-- or a classroom or a quad or a playground-- and felt a pang of sadness when they realize there is one person-- or even a group of people- they would love to connect with. Reaching out isn't easy, though. In fact, it can be downright hard. But the rewards? Tremendous. Use this book to remind little ones that these feelings of solitude are universal-- but we can't overcome them until we make an effort and get just a little out of our comfort zone.
We’re all Wonders, by RJ Palacio: "I know I can't change the way I look. But maybe, just maybe, people can change the way they see." This is Wonder, the phenomenal middle grade novel about a boy with significant facial deformities, for the younger set. As a picture book, it is sensitive, insightful and so, so beautiful. Its message is compelling, forever timely, and one that is imperative to instill in children at a young age. It is an absolute must to get into every child's hands.
Pandora, by Victoria Turnbull: If you love quiet, gentle stories that will tug just a little at your heart strings and stay with you long after the final page is closed, you must check out Pandora. A meditative story on the power of connection to heal our loneliest days, Pandora is a story to treasure and pull out on days when your children need to be reminded of the power of love.
On a Magical Do-Nothing Day, by Beatrice Alemagna: Remember the days when we didn't worry about screens cracking or batteries dying and the only volume anyone was concerned about was whether kids were properly using their inside voices? If your kids are getting too much screen time, hide the phones, take away the iPads, snuggle up on the couch, and read this book. And then go outside, play hide and seek, and enjoy nature together. Sometimes we all need that reminder to unplug and look up — and this book will help you do just that.
The Book of Mistakes, by Corrina Luyken: What a stunner this is! The Book of Mistakes is a quiet masterpiece illuminating the inherent beauty underlying every misstep we make. So many kids are perfectionists, beginning a project again and again because they can't get it just right. So how can we, the adults help to nurture their creativity and limit their insecurity? Use this book to show little ones that magnificence can be found in mistakes, even our biggest ones. An "oh no" can easily become an "oh wow!" with just a bit of endurance and a whole lot of heart and imagination. Kids will be amazed at the manner in which Luyken's smudges and spills are transformed into something extraordinarily special.
Jabari Jumps, by Gaia Cornwall: Jabari is quite excited to jump off the diving board at the city pool – if, of course, he can first conquer his fears. In her debut, Cornwall created lovable, memorable characters in both Jabari and his compassionate father who together make a perfect pair. Couple the gentle story with mixed-media illustrations that both complement and accentuate Jabari's fear and joy, and you've got a winning picture book to add to both school and home collections.
Rulers of the Playground, by Joseph Keufler: Have you ever stopped to think about playground politics? Believe it or not, they exist. Both my children and my students absolutely love this book for the manner in which it helps us discuss how to lead with kindness and respect. Couple the foregoing with beautiful -- and beautifully diverse -- illustrations, and you’ve got an instant hit!
Life on Mars, by Jon Agee: This book, about a boy searching for life on Mars, kills me every single time. I don't know what it is that makes me love it so much, but it's just ridiculously fun. For those of you that have been following me for a while, you know my favorite kinds of picture books are those where the text and illustrations tell different stories-- and sometimes totally contradict each other. There is something so wondrous about watching kids read and interpret these books, and when they truly understand the interplay between the two different narratives, it's like witnessing a little piece of magic.
Grandmother Thorn, by Katey Howes and illustrated by Rebecca Hahn: Accepting imperfection is not an easy task for many adults, much less many children. Yet Grandmother Thorn powerfully conveys the message that beauty can be found where we least expect it-- or want it-- when we learn to let go of our stubborn ways. The story reads as if it's a time-tested classic or an age-old folk tale, with rich characters, lush prose and not a word out of place, sparking important discussions on the meaning of perfection, friendship and embracing fear.
Garcia and Collette Go Exploring, by Hannah Barnaby and illustrated by Andrew Joiner: If your kids love an adventure, they will adore this picture book about a bunny and a fox who can’t agree on which location is more spectacular - space or the sea. The book’s parallel structure perfectly emphasizes the differences in each character's journey but also conveys the loneliness each feels without the other. When reunited, I love how the characters practice honesty and are not ashamed to admit the shortfalls of their respective journeys. The compromise the characters come to at the end of the book, and the recognition that a friend at your side makes every journey (even one that wasn't your first choice) that much better, has us reading this story on repeat.
Life, by Cynthia Rylant and illustrated by Brenden Wenzel: What is life? Growth? And what do these concepts even mean? These are challenging questions for any child to answer- and even for some of us adults, too. This book is a new emotive beauty that seeks to answer these questions. The result is a moving meditation celebrating life's many wonders, both big and small.
Charlotte the Scientist is Squished, by Camille Andros and illustrated by Brianne Farley: Calling all STEM lovers! Or, for that matter, calling any kid who loves science experiments (which basically means all kids, right?) This fun story about a rabbit who needs more space at home to conduct her science experiments teaches kids an important process for experimentation that will grow with them as their own questions and hypotheses become more and more challenging. Andros takes a practical skill and applies it to her story adeptly, with such charm and spunk, that kids won't even realize how much they are picking up as they read. You can't beat a book that is equal parts educational and adorable and will have kids laughing and learning at the same time.
Here We Are: Notes for Living on Planet Earth, by Oliver Jeffers: Jeffers does it again! In his newest book, Jeffers writes a beautiful ode to his child in which he tells his son all the things he needs to know about the world around him. This book is gorgeous, and as much as the prose is perfection, Jeffers truly outdoes himself with the magical illustrations that showcase his extraordinary talent, not just as a picture book illustrator, but as a fine artist as well.
I Have a Balloon, by Ariel Bernstein and illustrated by Scott Magoon: This book never fails to crack us up, and my big one loves explaining away what happens at the end of the book – his conclusion changes on every read! This is a fabulous book to introduce wants and needs to your kids, and it is a sure fire story to elicit belly laughs from your little ones.
In just a few short weeks, our children will be sharpening their pencils, laying out their uniforms, and heading back to the classroom. It is hard to believe that summer is nearly over! As you begin to prepare your kids for the fact that school is just around the corner, why not infuse some back to school books into your nightly bedtime reading routines? Reading with your children is the perfect way to help alleviate their anxieties, give them confidence to navigate those nerve-wracking first days of class, and, perhaps most importantly, remind them of the importance of having kind hands, kind hearts and kind words. Whether it is making sure no child feels invisible on the playground, or reminding them that teachers get as nervous as students for that first day, reading will do wonders for your child's social-emotional well being. So what are you waiting for? Grab some books and let's get our little ones prepared for an inspiring and fulfilling new year!
Here are Happily Ever Elephants' eleven favorite books for back to school, both old and new, including stories about first day jitters, setting expectations, building community, nurturing empathy, and being a leader among peers. While not every story has an underlying "back to school" theme, each brings something special and important to the table, setting the foundation for a school year filled with kindness, inclusiveness, and a celebration of self. Without further ado, here are our picks!
A New School Year: Stories in Six Voices, by Sally Derby, illustrated by Mika Song. Why we love it: Because anxiety before a new school year is universal, and students will find their various fears reflected back to them in these sensitive, poignant poems.
School's First Day of School, by Adam Rex, illustrated by Christian Robinson. Why we love it: Because kids aren't the only ones who get nervous for that very first bell on that very first day. Personification at its finest!
First Day Jitters, by Julie Danneberg, illustrated by Judy Love. Why we love it: Because kids will get a kick out of discovering who really has the jitters when summer ends and the school doors open -- the surprise will leave them giddy!
Chu's First Day of School, by Neil Gaiman, illustrated by Adam Rex. Why we love it: Because even the littlest kids worry that their unique "talents" won't be accepted by their classmates, but there is truly nothing to fear.
If You Ever Want to Bring a Circus to the Library, Don't!, by Elise Parsley. Why we love it: Because all kids need to learn classroom expectations when school begins, and this book does it with humor and heart, opening the door for a light conversation sure to engage all students.
The Invisible Boy, by Trudi Ludwig, illustrated by Patrice Barton. Why we love it: Because our children need gentle reminders to be kind to all and to ensure that no student in their class is ever made to feel invisible.
One, by Katherine Otoshi. Why we love it: Because standing up to others isn't easy, but we must encourage our kids to realize the power and beauty of their own voices.
Rulers of the Playground, by Joseph Keufler. Why we love it: Because children need to learn that there is a right way -- and a wrong way-- to lead.
Red, A Crayons Story, by Michael Hall. Why we love it: Because parents and educators alike need to help nurture each child's unique sense of self, and children should be raised to feel confident and proud of who they are at their core.
Be A Friend, by Salina Yoon. Why we love it: Because we must encourage our kids to embrace the special and unique characteristics in their classmates-- and never try to change anyone for having different abilities.
We're All Wonders, by RJ Palacio. Why we love it: Because if we begin the school year with a baseline foundation that each and every person is truly wondrous, we have a fighting chance to raise a kinder and more empathetic generation.
It's almost Valentine's Day! As your world turns various shades of posy pink and radiant red, why not celebrate by sharing some heart-filled books with your little ones? Here are our top ten favorite books about love -- the huggy kind, the kissy kind, the self-love kind, and -- my personal favorite -- the love is love is love kind. Enjoy!
Worm Loves Worm, by J.J. Austrian, illustrated by Mike Curato: What happens when two worms fall in love and want to get married? Which worm will wear the dress and which will wear the tuxedo? On second thought, if worm loves worm -- why should anything else matter? This fabulous story is without a doubt Happily Ever Elephants' favorite book about love.
Love Is, by Diane Adams, illustrated by Claire Keane: A little girl learns what it means to love as she cares for a duckling, hugs him closely, and then learns to let go. A tender beauty.
XO, OX: A Love Story, by Adam Rex, illustrated by Scott Campbell: An awkward ox falls in love with a gorgeous (albeit conceited) gazelle, and he takes to writing her one love letter after another. Though his overtures are sharply rebuffed, the ox nevertheless persists and eventually causes the gazelle to have a change of heart.
When an Elephant Falls in Love, by Davide Cali, illustrated by Alice Lotti: When an elephant falls in love, he experiences many of the same emotions as the rest of us: he's giddy with joy and weak with anticipation. He's left feeling equal parts shy and bold, and sometimes a little bit foolish too. There's nothing like first love!
I Heart You, by Meg Fleming, illustrated by Sarah Jane Wright: A beautiful tribute to the incomparable connection between a parent and child, this is a lyrical and tender exploration of the ways in which a parent's love can both encourage and reassure. A perfect gift for expecting parents!
What do You Love About You, by Karen Lechelt: We are all individuals, and as each and every one of us has our own unique attributes, we all have something to celebrate! This book is a perfect reminder that each of us is special in our own way, and it encourages kids to ask themselves "what do I love about me?!"
Hug Machine, by Scott Campbell: The title says it all -- no one can resist the hug machine! He's really good at hugging. So good, in fact, that you will be amazed at all the little things we never think to hug but really enjoy a good dose of affection. Pure joy!
Hedgehugs, by Steve Wilson, illustrated by Lucy Tapper: Hoarce and Hattie do everything together. Well, almost everything. Hard as they try, the hedgehogs just can't find a way to hug - their sharp spikes always get in the way! The two set off on a mission to figure out how to hug - and it will undoubtedly make your little ones giggle with glee.
All Kinds of Kisses, by Heather Swain, illustrated by Steven Henry: How do giraffes kiss? What about hummingbirds? If your little ones love hitting you up for smooches, they will love reading this book with you -- and trying to imitate the animals' actions.
Love Monster, by Rachel Bright: Poor googly-eyed love monster just can't find a way to fit in with all the cuddly folks of Cutesville. This causes Love Monster to set out on a journey in search of someone to love him just the way he is. Reminding even the most jaded that love happens when you least expect it, this book is sure to leave you with a smile... and an open heart.
Children ask questions, demand answers, and seek tangible analogies to help them understand the complexities of the world in which they live. They are, undoubtedly, pint sized barometers of right and wrong. Let’s use their insatiable curiosity and unwavering moral compasses to teach them that though they may be little, they are, without question, more fierce than many people three times their size. We — parents, caregivers and educators — can harness their innate ability to view the world through righteous eyes by showing them they have the power to make a change if they see behaviors or events they believe are wrong. We can teach them that though they are small, their voices are mighty and they have the ability to make a difference in their school or their community. Whether they hold a hand out to a classmate being bullied, organize a book drive for schools that have been destroyed by natural disasters, or run a bake sale to raise money for a homeless shelter, there are things our kids can do to explore solutions to some of our society’s greatest challenges.
There are so many meaningful stories that can help our little ones find not only their voices, but ways to right the wrongs they see around them. Together we can build a community of children who believe in social justice and who are ready and willing to make important changes in their worlds. By facilitating this conversation when our children are young, we can build the foundation for greater understanding and activism as they grow. And now, without further ado, here are some of our top 10 favorite books to help children find their voices and learn to evoke change. Enjoy!
The Curious Garden, by Peter Brown: We love this book about one boy's quiet determination to change the face of his dreary city by nurturing a forgotten garden and encouraging it to grow wild.
Maybe Something Beautiful, by F. Isabel Campoy and Theresa Howell and illustrated by Rafael Lopez: Based on the story of the urban Art Trail in San Francisco, This exquisitely beautiful book shows how art can transform not just a neighborhood, but the people living in it as well. For our full review of Maybe Something Beautiful, click HERE.
Extra Yarn, by Mac Barnett and illustrated by Jon Klassen: What happens when one little girl and her seemingly endless box of yarn knit one sweater, and then another and another? This understated yet stunning Caldecott Honor book is another gem and shows what happens when you share goodness with the people around you.
Be the Change: A Grandfather Gandhi Story, by Arun Gandhi and Bethany Hegedus and illustrated by Evan Turk: With a fabulous look at how “passive violence” occurs frequently and is often a root cause of physical violence, this beautiful story explains how each of us can examine and modify our own actions to create even the smallest of changes for the betterment of society.
Nerdy Birdy, by Aaron Reynolds and illustrated by Matt Davies: Nerdy Birdy loves reading and video games- two passions which cancel his membership to the cool crowd. Nerdy Birdy eventually finds a flock of birds just like him, but what happens when a new bird comes to town who doesn't quite fit in? Nerdy Birdy strays from the crowd, standing up for his new pal.
I am Martin Luther King Jr., by Brad Meltzer and illustrated by Christopher Eliopoulos: part of Brad Meltzer's Ordinary People Change the World series, this wonderful biography tells the story of MLK, and how even as a child he was shocked by the unfair and unequal treatment of African Americans. As he grew, he decided to do something about this problem, and with peaceful, powerful words and non-violent protests, one ordinary person made an extraordinary impact on society.
What Do You Do With a Problem, by Kobi Yamada and illustrated by Mae Besom: Another winner by the author of What Do You Do With an Idea. In this story, a problem follows a boy around, and with it comes struggle and anxiety. Until, that is, the moment he realizes that with every problem comes an opportunity. What a perfect message to impart to our kids that they have the power to make positive changes out of challenges they see in their own backyards.
Grace for President, by Kelly DiPucchio and illustrated by LeUyen Pham: "Where are the girls?" Tenacious Grace is determined to make a change when she learns there has never been a woman president. Need I say more?
Enemy Pie, by Derek Munson and illustrated by Tara Calahan King: Sometimes all it takes is spending a day with your "enemy" to change your attitude for good. We love this story of a young boy's evolution from foe to friend-- and, of course, his brilliant father's ingenious idea!
One Plastic Bag: Isatou Ceesay and the Recycling Women of the Gambia, by Miranda Paul and Elizabeth Zunon: This powerful picture book tells the story of a Gambian girl who recognizes a huge challenge in her village and seeks to combat it. One plastic bag-- eventually discarded on the road- turns into ten which turns into thousands, killing goats and causing significant strife in the community. Isitou Ceesay finds a way to recycle these plastic bags by turning them into purses, which effectively transforms her village and beautifully imparts that one child can truly make an impact on the world around her.
I was in the sixth grade. The assignment? I couldn’t tell you exactly, but it had something to do with Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. We had to personalize it—make it our own. I can’t tell you much about what was in my hierarchy, except for the fact that the base of my pyramid—the component I needed the most of to survive—was none other than something I still love dearly: books. Forget about food and water. Forget about candy or swimming pools or television shows or sleepover parties. Books and reading were what I needed to survive.
It has always been like that for me, I suppose. Reading has always been as essential for me as breathing, and it is readily apparent within the first few minutes of anyone who meets me. There is no denying that I have a book buying habit like others buy fancy shoes or handbags. (Thank goodness it’s not quite as expensive!) And there is certainly no denying that raising readers—instilling a love of books in my two young boys— is one of the most important missions I have as a mom. Because what is life without story?
I’ve always believed that magic happens when tiny fingers turn the pages of a beloved book. Stories provide avenues of amusement, entryways to intrigue, and doors through which discovery abounds. The simplest of sentences can launch us to the stars and back again, helping us land safely in our haven of blankets and pillows after completing an expedition to save the earth, all in mere moments. Through story, we can help our children navigate oceans of emotions and experiences. We can provide them a safe place to grapple with difficult topics and challenging feelings. We can give them laughter and comfort, and we can teach empathy and inclusiveness and kindness. Most importantly, we can use books to unlock their collective imagination. What other tool is better equipped for such worthy and important objectives?
Perhaps that’s why books have always been the base of my hierarchy and why I hope to pass this love onto my children. It is certainly why I began my Instagram account and my blog, Happily Ever Elephants, both at which I review children’s literature, as nothing is more important to me than getting great books into the homes and hearts of children and families everywhere. Here on All the Wonders, I’ll continue to share long form book reviews, and I will also share my thoughts on how we as parents can be sure to raise little bookworms, instilling a love of story and an insatiable curiosity in our kids. And now, without further ado, my contribution to the ATW Big Book Block Party: five of my favorite books to unlock your child’s imagination.
Please Bring Balloons, by Lindsay Ward: A note, a carousel and a polar bear. Is it a dream? A fantastical adventure? We are still wondering—and that’s so much a part of why we love it. Both artistically beautifully and perfectly fanciful, we adore this captivating story!
The Whisper, by Pamela Zagarenski: A magical book whose words have suddenly gone missing. However will the story get told? There are no rules for the protagonist, just exquisite illustrations for which she begins—with hesitation at first, and then an increasing amount of confidence—to develop opening sentences. An enchanting read about the magic of storytelling, this is a treasure in our home.
School's First Day of School, by Adam Rex: A school with first day jitters? A school with feelings? We love this story and how the protagonist, a brand spanking new school, becomes a sentient being, complete with all of the anxieties that come hand in hand with opening day. If schools have feelings, what other things have feelings that we may never think about? A perfect read for the end of summer, and a wonderful way to get those creative juices flowing.
The Day the Crayons Quit, by Oliver Jeffers: A crayon on strike? A whole box on strike?! Who would have thought that each color has its own personal qualms about how it may (or may not) be used? If you want to get your kids laughing and you don’t already have this in your library, it is a must. A wildly imaginative read, and tons of fun, too.
Lion Lessons, by Jon Agee: A little boy takes lessons to be a lion, literally. Seven steps, and you can be one too! This new book is laugh out loud funny and totally ignites the imagination. If there are lion lessons, what else might there be? Kangaroo classes? Pirate practices? Sorcerer sessions? So many possibilities, so much room for pretend play and beyond the book activities.
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If you guessed that we love picture books about elephants here at Happily Ever Elephants, you guessed correctly! Here are some of our very favorite kids books about these majestic, lucky animals!Read More