10 Books My Son Can’t Put Down

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best books for boys We have been reading a lot this year and I wanted to do a book gift guide for independent readers. I decided to go to my best source, my son. This list may be about books my son can’t put down but they aren’t only the best books for boys they can be for boys or girls. Go ask your child what book they think is the BEST book and come back and leave the title in comments! Let’s keep this list growing.

All our book lists contain affiliate links.

best books for boys

Scholastic Year in Sports 2014
by James Buckley Jr. is a wonderful series by Scholastic that brings together sports news and stats for a fun non fiction book for sports fans. My son adores this book and absorbs all the facts like a sponge. He loves to wow his dad with the stuff he reads in it and I like how that motivates him even more to read.

lego book

LEGO Minifigure Year by Year: A Visual History
by Gregory Farshtey and Daniel Lipkowitz is a fascinating book filled with Lego history. I love reading this with my son and showing him the Lego I remember from childhood and how far it’s come since the late 70s. Like many of the books in this list it is non-fiction and can be flipped through casually or cover to cover.

nerf book

NERF: Ultimate Blaster Book
by Nathanial Marunas is missing right now and this is a big deal. My son adores this book and can often be found flipping through it very seriously as he decides which NERF blaster to ask Santa for this year. The book covers NERF history and all the different blasters. I think it’s interesting to read about product development but this isn’t your average bedtime book. I can guarantee you it’s been read like one at our house though and once we find it it will be read over and over again.

awesome facts

5,000 Awesome Facts
by National Geographic Kids was a great bookstore find. This book has provided many hours of solo reading for my son. He’s a great reader but prefers to read stories with someone and read facts solo. This book is almost always on the floor next to his bed. It’s filled with fun facts about pretty much everything. The lists are themed and the full color pages are attention getting. Great book for fact junkies.

ricky1

Ricky Ricotta’s Mighty Robot (Book 1)
by Dave Pilkey  These early chapter books are about a little mouse Ricky who is not the most popular mouse. He gets picked on at school until he ends up saving Robot’s life and the two of them become best friends! You’d think that with a giant robot as a best buddy a little mouse might let it go to his head. Ricky is a good mouse through and through and as the series continues he and Robot continue to save Squeakyville from all sorts of evil. The books are full color and have a super cool comics throughout and an even cooler flip book in the middle.  You can read more about these books on this post .

percy jackson

The Lightning Thief (Percy Jackson and the Olympians, Book 1)
by Rick Riordan was a huge hit at our house and the only reason we aren’t reading the next book in the series right now is because we picked up Harry Potter. This book is exciting, scary at times, and totally engaging for kids. The author knows how to suck kids in and make them beg for ONE more chapter. What I loved about it was the link to Greek Mythology. It gave me lots of topics to get deeper into with my son as we read the book about Percy Jackson and his other demi-god friends. Great adventure book for kids.

harry potter

The Complete Harry Potter Collection
by J.K Rowling is a staple at our house. We started reading the series when my son was 5 and spaced out the books reading one every year or so until this year when we read Goblet of Fire and Order of The Pheonix ( still reading this one) one right after the other. I love sharing this series with my son because he can see how much I love these books as well. It’s an effortless way of promoting reading.  The world of Harry Potter is so detailed and as children read further into the series they must make connections not only from one page to the next but one book to the next. It’s been a great opportunity to work on comprehension.

pokemon essential handbook

Pokemon: Essential Handbook
by Chris Silvestri There are a lot of Pokemon books on the market but this one gets the biggest possible thumbs up from my seven year old son. We had to replace his first copy because he read it so much it fell apart. This book is an encyclopedia of all the Pokemon characters. Each description includes a little blurb about the Pokemon and some stats. We have had a blast reading this book together. He memorizes everything about the Pokemon, looks to see which ones are about his height, about his weight and of course asks me to quiz him on all of the above. I can not tell you how much he loves this book. It goes everywhere with him and when he says ” Where is my book?” we know which book he is speaking of. If your child is into Pokemon they will love it.

encyclopedia brown

Encyclopedia Brown and the Case of the Midnight Visitor
by Donald J. Sobol is not a new series. While I never read them as a kid my husband did and was delighted to share them with my son. I was also delighted when he loved these detective books as much as my husband remembers loving them way back when.

big book of why

Sports Illustrated Kids Big Book of Why Sports Edition
by The Editors of Sports Illustrated Kids is another sports fan’s dream. This book has sports history and fun facts that will not only satiate curiosity but will let kids see how much more there is to sports than just the game they see. I love all the obscure facts and honestly I have learned more from this book than all the time spent watching sports with my boys ( I am usually reading in all fairness) and love that it can be read at random, no need to go cover to cover.

book list for boys

 

What books do your independent readers love? Share the title or link in comments and we will make this list even better!

9 books & circle time activities for 2 and 3 year olds { with FREE Printables}

circle time lesson plans for 2 and 3 year olds Now that I am back in the classroom I get to lead circle time again. I LOVE circle time, I love seeing all the little faces looking up at me and that moment when they connect to the material.  I teach 2 and 3 year olds so my circle time is short and simple. We all sit on the floor and read a book and do a coordinating group activity. This all takes at most 10 minutes but more often 5 or 6. Keeping it short means making your students successful. I would rather have a 2 minute activity where they were all engaged and I can praise them for that than a 10 minute one where kids are losing interest and not at all engaged.  Here are 9 books and dynamic circle time activities for 2-3 year olds

This list contains affiliate links.

how big is a pig

Book : How Big Is a Pig? by Claire Beaton

Activity : Sorting large and small

Activity set up :

printables for circle time

  • Print out the image above by clicking it and printing.
  • Cut the animals out and laminate or use contact paper to cover. Add magnets or velcro if you want to do this activity on a magnet or felt board.
  • Add the large and small barns to a box or the board you are using. Click on the images below to print.

sorting small barn sorting Large Barn

The lesson:

  • Read the book.
  • Give each child one or two animals telling them that they are going to help you decide if these animals are large or small. If you have their attention take the time to ask if they know another word for large.
  • Invite each child one at a time to add their animal(s) to the right size barn.
  • After all the animals have been sorted count the animals together as a group.

 

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circle time lesson for harold and the purple crayon

Book: Harold and the Purple Crayon by Crockett Johnson

Activity : Make The Color Purple!

Activity set up :

  • Gather a snack size ziploc for each child, blue, and red liquid paint, a small bowl, one paint brush, and duct tape.
  • Add a small amount of both colors in the ziplocs. Secure with duct tape. Trust me your circle time carpet will thank me. Set aside where kids can’t see.
  • Add paint to the dish.

The lesson:

  • Read the book.
  • Ask the group if anyone knows how we make the color purple. Tell the students that today they get to be color scientists and they will be making purple.
  • Demonstrate how the colors mix together in the dish.
  • Hand out the ziplocs and encourage them to squish the colors together to make purple.

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secret seahorse circle time activity for preschool

Book:  Secret Seahorse by Stella Blackstone

Activity : Sea animal or  land animal?

Activity set up :

  • Gather animal figurines likes these Safari Ocean Animals and Wild Republic Animals
  • Grab two shallow containers. You can fill one with grass and dirt and the other with a little water or green and blue paper respectively. If you are in a rush skip this, just grab the animals and make two piles!

The lesson:

  • Read the book.
  • Give each child one or two animals telling them that they are going to help you decide if these animals live on land or in water.
  • Invite each child one at a time to add their animal(s) to the right habitat.
  • After all the animals have been sorted count the animals together as a group.

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trashy town circle time activity

 

Book: Trashy Town by Andrea Zimmerman and David Clemesha

Activity : Taking Out The Letter Trash

Activity set up :

  • Gather some magnetic or other manipulative letters ( at the start of the year I always focus on the first letters in my students names), 4-5 mini garbage cans like these Mini Desktop Trash.
  • Label the trash cans with the letters you are focusing on. You will only be using the same amount of letters as you have cans so you will need duplicates for medium and large size classes.

The lesson:

  • Read the book.
  • Tell the children that Mr. Gilly took out the trash but they get to sort it! Their trash isn’t old banana peels and soup cans, their trash isn’t even trash at all, it’s letters!
  • Give each child a letter.
  • Invite them to show the class their letter and find the correct can for it.
  • If your class has good letter recognition skills you can make this more of a challenge by using lowercase letters sorting into uppercase trash bins.

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emotion activity for circle time

 

Book: Happy Hippo, Angry Duck: A Book of Moods by Sandra Boynton

Activity : Happy? Sad? or Angry?

Activity set up :

  • The days leading up to this lesson invite each child to make happy, sad, and angry faces for photos.
  • Print out the photos and laminate them.

The lesson:

  • Read the book.
  • Invite the group to make happy faces, sad faces, and angry faces.
  • Shuffle the cards so you use at least one of each child during the activity so no one is left out.
  • Hold the cards up one at a time and have the group decide how that person is feeling.

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The Busy Little Squirrel

 

Book : The Busy Little Squirrel by Nancy Tafuri

 

** Only to be used in a facility where nut allergies are not an issue. You can use photos of nuts if that is the case.

Activity : Sorting and Counting Nuts

Activity set up :

  • Gather a dozen or so nuts in the shell ( walnuts, chestnuts and almonds work well. A nutcracker as well ( a real one like this ( affiliate link) not the fancy ones).
  • Gather 4 baskets. Place all the nuts in one basket taking out one of each kind for the

The lesson:

  • Read the book.
  • Ask the children what the squirrel was gathering for winter. Show them the inside of each of the nuts.
  • Tell them that you have some nuts like the ones the squirrel was gathering but you need help to find out how much of each kind of nut you have.
  • Sort the nuts together.
  • Dump each basket and count as a group.

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activity for mr. cookie baker

 

Book:  Mr. Cookie Baker by Monica Wellington

Activity : Shape Match Cookies

Activity set up :

cookie shape sorting printable

  • Print out the image above ( click to enlarge) and cut the cookies out. Laminate or use contact paper to cover.
  • Print out the jar printables below ( click to enlarge) and tape to the front of an empty jar or basket.

cookie shape match triangle jar

cookie shape match square jar

cookie shape match heart jar

The lesson:

  • Read the book.
  • Ask the children if they can help you put all the cookies in the correct cookie jar.
  • Hand each child one or two cookies.
  • Invite the students to place the cookies in the correct jar. If a child is having a hard time don’t just swoop in, see if another child can help.
  • After sorting count the contents of each jar.

* Tip the younger the group the more simple the sorting should be. At the start of the year I would only have 2 options and nearer the end I would expand that to 3 or even 4.

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Northwest Coast Learn the Alphabet cover

Book:  Learn the Alphabet with NorthWest Coast Native Art by Ryan Cranmer (and others)

Activity: Fishing for Letters

Activity set up :

  • Gather some magnetic letters, a small blue towel, and a magnetic fishing pole. You will also want a cookie sheet or magnet board.
  • Lay out the blue towel and place the letters on top.

The lesson:

  • Read the book.
  • Ask the children if they had a favorite animal in the book. Tell them that you thought the salmon ( or just fish) were very neat.
  • Tell them that they get to go fishing too! But that they are going to fish for letters!
  • Invite each child up to fish for a letter. When they have one ask them if they know what letter it is, if not label it for them. Place the letter on a magnet board or cookie sheet.
  • After all the children have fished a letter review the letters that were caught and then release them back out into the ocean!

 

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alphabet under construction

 

Book: Alphabet Under Construction by Denise Fleming

Activity : Building with letters

Activity set up :

The lesson:

  • Read the book.
  • Tell the children that they will get to be builders today just like the mice in the book and build with the alphabet.
  • Bring out the bin of cardboard blocks.
  • Invite each child to pick out a block, tell the class what letter is on the block and place it in the middle of the rug to make a tower.  If the tower is getting too high build a 2nd one.

 

I hope these ideas are something you can use or adapt to your classroom.  I have been having so much fun being back at circle! What is your favorite circle time activity? Link or comment below!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Halloween Books That Won’t Give Your Kids Nightmares

halloween books not scaryYou wouldn’t know it by meeting my son today but as a really little guy he was super sensitive to scary things. I wasn’t ever sure we’d make it to Disneyland because he was terrified of people in big costumes. Like most phases of childhood just as I started re-reading my child psychology texts from college looking for insight the phase worked itself out. Some children are simply more sensitive from day one, and some like my son go through phases where they are working things through. Either way they should be able to have great books about Halloween that won’t provoke nightmares. The list below are all books that neither of my children or any of my former students have found scary. I still think it’s well worth a quick browse before reading and you can always click the title link ( affiliate link that takes you to amazon) to see more opinions from other parents.

As stated all book lists include affiliate links.

halloween books that aren't scary

Clifford’s First Halloween (Clifford the Small Red Puppy) by Norman Birdwell is a Halloween book that my son adored it as a toddler, there were many days when I read it multiple times. . The story is about the big red dog’s very first Halloween as a puppy. Clifford and Emily Elizabeth find costumes, they trick or treat and try candy apples too. I think what my son related to was that like little Clifford, he was often too little for things, made messes all the time, and has bigger people step in and fix everything for him.  This book doesn’t jump at me as a must read but I can’t ignore how much my son loved this book, so I have included it in the list.

inside a house that is haunted

 

Inside a House That Is Haunted by Alyssa Satin Capucilli was the hands down favorite Halloween book for my 3 year old class in 2005. I must have read this 200 times and even after Christmas had come and gone it was still requested all the time. The story is a rebus read along, so it is repetitive and it builds upon itself. This is great for children who are eager to “read along” before they are able to read words. The repetitiveness allows them to anticipate what is next and feel included. Very cute even after reading it so many times.

Peek-a-Boooo!

Peek-a-Boooo! by Marie Torres Cimarusti is a perfect toddler Halloween book. The premise is simple, each page has a well known Halloween character including a witch, skeleton,  and Frankenstein all hiding behind their hands playing peek-a-boo with the readers. The characters hands are flaps and when you lift them they reveal the character’s face – which is always sweet and happy , never scary.  At the end of the book there are more flaps to lift to reveal trick or treaters and the same Halloween characters hiding in their haunted house. My son loves this book too and  I think it’s a great completely gentle way to read about Halloween with toddlers.

rp_there-was-an-old-lady-who-swallowed-a-bat-240x300.jpg

There Was an Old Lady Who Swallowed a Bat! by Lucille Colandro was a huge hit! It’s a reworking of the classic song ” There was an old lady who swallowed a fly” only this one swallows a whole bunch of Halloween creatures, like a goblin, ghost and of course a bat.  She continues to swallow bigger and bigger things much to my son’s amazement! He was giggling through the whole book and the end when the old lay belches he laughed hysterically. It was predictable but I have to admit was a really fun , silly read.

maisy's halloween

Maisy’s Halloween by Lucy Cousins is a cute board book for toddlers that follows Maisy’s search for the right Halloween costume. There is something about this little mouse that children just love. My daughter will reach for a Maisy book over just about any other if given a choice. The story is also a cute introduction about the fun we have dressing up for Halloween.

where_is_babys_pumpkin-300x300

Where Is Baby’s Pumpkin?by Karen Katz. Is a Halloween favorite at our house and has been for years. I don’t think the book has ever been really put away since buying it when my son was a toddler. Karen Katz’s lift the flap books are more than just cute , the flaps and different textures keep little hands busy and little bodies calm enough to sit for the whole book.

ghosts in the house

Ghosts in the House!  by Kazuno Kohara is on my must buy list! A little girl moves into house and soon finds out it is haunted. Luckily she is a witch and knows just what to do. The ghosts in the story seem mischievous but never scary and even when she washes them in the washing machine, they are still smiling! My son loved this book, the text was the perfect length for a 3 year old, short but still descriptive.  I loved the simple  black and orange colors and had to look at the copyright twice because I was certain this was written sometime in the 30s, nope 2008. The simplicity of the book and colors is balanced so well with the little details like the little girl’s constant companion , a white cat that puts on a black costume when the little witch pops on her hat. This detail had my son in stitches, “Cats don’t wear clothes , silly cat!” .  Absolutely a perfect Halloween book for children not yet ready to be scared for fun!

it's pumpkin day mouse

It’s Pumpkin Day, Mouse! (If You Give…) by Laura Numeroff is a Halloween themed book about emotions. Mouse is busy painting his pumpkins and paints different faces representing different emotions on each. This is a great little book that gives parents a wonderful opener to talk about different emotions when things are calm. There is one scary pumpkin but I doubt it will frighten any readers.

Halloween Day

Halloween Day by Anne Rockwell is another winner . I love this author because kids love her books, and the ones that she has collaborated with her daughter on are probably my favorites. Her daughter Lizzy is the illustrator and she won my son over with her cool pictures of costumes and Halloween décor , especially the little boy in the firefighter costume. The story is about a classroom celebrating Halloween but what I love is that it shows why each child chose to dress up in their individual costumes.  Huge hit at our house, perfect for the 2-5 crowd and not scary at all!

10 trick or treaters

10 Trick-or-Treaters by Janet Schulman is one of my favorite Halloween books and both my children love it. We read it leading up to and well after Halloween last year. The premise is simple, a group of trick or treaters are pegged off one by one as they are scared by some Halloween creature.  Readers count down from 10 – 0 and  enjoy the bright detailed illustrations as they do. I particularly like the cute costumes and the final page which has another countdown with candy – always fun to count candy right?

mouses first halloween

Mouse’s First Halloween by Lauren Thompson is a sweet and really well done book. The story follows a little mouse who is easily afraid of the many things on Halloween night , but one by one discovers that things like falling leaves, jack-o-lanterns and trick or treaters aren’t so scary after all. I love the repetition in this book and the illustrations by Bucket Erdogan epitomize the fall spookiness that Halloween nights are filled with. Thumbs up from my son and I .

creepy sleepy monsters

Creepy Monsters, Sleepy Monsters by Jane Yolen is a sweet monster book with minimal text and very rich illustrations by Kelly Murphy.  The story is really about the daily wind down and bedtime for two monsters. You and your child will absolutely relate to them on one page or another ( or all). These little monsters are just like our little monsters resisting bedtime, trying to avoid baths… well you know the daily struggle. My daughter was not into the book but my son liked it even though I’d gear it towards the 2-4 crowd. We chose our favorite monsters on each page and found interesting details like the recipe for tentacle soup on the page where the mom is making dinner . Cute, your child will relate to it and it’s not at all scary!

 

21 Picture Book Biographies

picture book biographies When children read biographies it’s like they are walking into a new friend’s home. They get immersed in their life and never leave without learning something new. These picture book biographies are incredible tools to teach children about history, about innovation, and empathy.

All our book lists include affiliate links.

Picture Book Of Amelia Earhart

A Picture Book of Amelia Earhart (Picture Book Biography)by David A. Adler had both my 7 year old and I totally enthralled. This book does a great job at painting the picture of early 20th century North America and how women were treated. Amelia’s whole life is covered and the book even touches on the conspiracy theories about her death. I loved how much of Amelia’s independent spirit came through in the quotes that the author shared. My absolute favorite tidbit about Ms. Earhart is actually in the author’s note and is about her mother. Did you know her mother was the first woman to summit Pike’s Peak ? That fact opened up a huge conversation with my son about parental role models.

Helen Picture Book

A Picture Book of Helen Keller by David A. Adler tells the story of this great heroine in a simple way without losing the magnificence of her life. From her illness as a young toddler, to meeting her “miracle worker” Anne Sullivan and earning the first degree ever awarded to any deaf and blind person.  The author doesn’t sanctify Helen though , they talk openly about her tantrums as a child and her naughty behavior. My son ( when he was 3)  sat for this whole book, it opened up a bedtime talk about blindness to which we turned off the light and experienced a little ourselves I am hoping reading this book will open more doors of empathy for my son, to recognize that we are all different with different abilities but are all capable of great things

Picture Book Of Harriet Tubman

A Picture Book of Harriet Tubman (Picture Book Biography)by David A. Adler. Often when I am reviewing a book with my kids I will jot down notes. This book had only one note. ” Amazing!!!” I have always known the bare facts about Harriet Tubman and her involvement in The Underground Railroad but I loved being able to learn more at the same time as my son. Our eyes both got wide as we read her incredible story of strength and leadership. My son loved this book as well and I appreciate how the author gives details without getting lost in them. My son told me “She was crazy brave !” and I agree. This is a wonderful book about a real American hero.

manfish

Manfish: A Story of Jacques Cousteau by Jennifer Berne is a interesting book even if you’ve never heard of Jacques Cousteau, which is a good thing because I don’t think many children would recognize his name. Heck maybe some of you younger adults don’t either! The book tells the story of how he brought together his love of the ocean and film together to share them both with the world. In the author’s note at the end of the book the most profound bit of the whole book is shared. She notes Cousteau’s familiar phrase ” Il faut aller voir.” which translates to ” You have to see if for yourself.” Which is exactly what he made possible for so many people. Lovely. The illustrations were magical and did such a wonderful job supporting the author as she tried to share Cousteau’s passion for his life’s work with readers.

wizard from the start

A Wizard from the Start: The Incredible Boyhood and Amazing Inventions of Thomas Edison by Don Brown is a gem. This biography isn’t flashy but it doesn’t have to be because Edison’s life was fascinating and the way the author decided to focus so much on his early years including his failures is brilliant. Children don’t relate to perfect adults, they relate to struggling kids. I learned a lot about Edison reading this book and it made me want to learn even more. There was action, conflict, failure, and of course great success. This book will leave you wishing you could have met him.

Georgia’s Bones by Jen Bryant won’t expose your child to much of the artists work but it will give your child a sense of who she was and what inspired her. The book focuses on how Georgia saw the world, the shapes and colors and views around her. It paints the artists as a quiet, thoughtful girl and a clam and pensive woman. It also takes readers to such different parts of the United States where Georgia found similar inspiration from such different environments. You may want to grab a map and find all the locations with your child after reading this.

George Washington’s Teeth by Deborah Chandra and Madeline Comora is a funny telling of how George Washington got those famous false teeth. What I like so much about this book and what my son did too is it also tells the story of the Revolutionary War. I think the brilliant thing about this book is it shows that George Washington wasn’t the super hero that he is often portrayed as. This makes him , his story and American history in general way more accessible to young kids. I can’t ignore the really fantastic tertiary lesson about dental hygiene as well.

my brother martin

My Brother Martin: A Sister Remembers Growing Up with the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. by Christine King Farris. Teaching preschoolers about history is tricky, but you can do it, you just have to break it down and give them bits they can relate to. This book does a fantastic job, while reading it I always have to hold in tears, it is just such a unique look at the childhood of a man who’s dreams changed the world. What I love about this book is that the majority of it is about his childhood and children can relate so much more easily to him as a child growing up then simply as this great man on the podium. Kids always love learning that he played pranks on people just like they like to do. The author explains prejudice and segregation in a straightforward and simple way so that children can understand and reflect on how it feels to be treated like that. The book doesn’t ignore the great accomplishments and wonderful man the little boy became but does a wonderful job making Dr. King into a hero your child can feel something in common with , and in return become more interested about.

Rosa

Rosa by Nikki Giovanni is not so much a biography, but it is most definitely a historical account of one woman who changed a nation. We all know the story of Rosa Parks but no matter how well you know the facts, reading a children’s book about it makes me cry. The author has done a fantastic job setting the stage, explaining how Rosa Parks was not your typical heroine, she was just a seamstress, just like everyone else. This is imperative to the message that a single person can stand up for what is right and make big changes. I also appreciated that the author included so much about the women who spearheaded the bus boycott. I am 37 and I feel inspired reading this as a woman, to think of the power it can have over the younger generation excites me. This would be a wonderful introduction to learning about the civil rights movement for kids 5-10.

Action Jackson by Jan Greenberg and Sandra Jordan is a great book not only about Jackson Pollock but also about how an artist goes through the artistic process, their influences and what their life is like. This book is perfect for older children but my son( who was just under 3 at the time)  loved looking at pictures and Jackson Pollock’s dog. I would suggested this for anyone with budding artists!

wilma unlimited

Wilma Unlimited: How Wilma Rudolph Became the World’s Fastest Woman by Kathryn Krull Do you know who Wilma Rudolph was? She was the African-American Olympian who became the first American woman ever to win three gold medals at one Olympic Games. But her story is even more amazing that that. She also suffered from Polio as a child and was told she’d never run. Her determination stands out and inspires. I have mentioned many times how my grandmother was an Olympic medalist so this story hits a personal chord for me. I am awed and amazed by how far women have come from their first Olympic games in 1928.

story of anne frank

The Story of Anne Frank by Brenda Ralph Lewis impressed me. I struggle with how to tell such a horrifying story to young children. I should explain that this book is not geared for preschoolers, it’s a school age book , but still it’s a daunting task. This book helps break down the facts while including details about this young girl’s personal and family life. This balance of historical facts and Anne’s family life is the key to why this book works. There is so much horror to digest that the little details like how Anne was a bit of a trouble maker, and talked too much in class helps to tune the reader back into the very personal story. I think this is a fantastic precursor to reading Anne Frank: The Diary Of A Young Girl , it will give all the needed background for your older child to fully comprehend and appreciate the diary itself.

manfish3

Different Like Coco by Elizabeth Matthews chronicles Coco Channel’s troubling and tragic childhood through to her hard earned success. I had mixed feelings about this book and my daughter was not terribly interested in the text. Many biographies written for children miss the mark at being interesting for children and instead just simplify the facts and add illustrations for the kids. Maybe if my daughter was older she’d be into this book but it failed to make me care about Coco. I wanted to connect and have my feisty four year old who has been dressing herself since she could voice an opinion love it too. But it was just OK. The message about being different being a good thing was clear but without feeling connected to Coco it didn’t pack as much punch as it could have.

nelson mandela

Nelson Mandela by Kadir Nelson will take your breath away. The front cover portrait belongs in a museum, it captures the incredible dignity and strength of character of Nelson Mandela. The biography begins with a turning point, when Nelson is chosen to go to school and his name is changed from Rolihlahla to Nelson. The book’s text covers the main points of Nelson Mandela’s life from that moment until he is finally released from prison. The afterword covers his historic election and Presidency. Apartheid is explained through the text but Kadir Nelson’s incredible illustrations are at times better at telling the story than text could possibly be. I can not stress enough how stunning the illustrations in this book are. When I read books for review I take notes and my only note for this book was ” pictures will make you cry.” They will because they capture the injustice and triumph. Each page is a gift.

me-jane-cover

Me . . . Jane by Patrick McDonnell is a look at Jane Goodall as a child. Jane climbs trees with her stuffed chimp and dreams of observing animals and living in Africa. The book is simple and carries a clear message that childhood dreams do come true if you believe in them. The author notes complete the picture explaining that Jane didn’t just magically end up in Africa, that she studied and worked hard to become the authority she is today. Kids will connect with the little Jane and hopefully connect to big Jane’s tenacity and passion.

ella fitzgerald bio picture book

Skit-Scat Raggedy Cat: Ella Fitzgerald by Roxane Orgill is definitely not a book for preschoolers. I learned a bunch about Ella Fitzgerald while reading this but it was way too long for my four year and honestly some of the events in her life were not things I was ready to share with my daughter yet. The book was perfect for my 7 year old though. Her life was hard and for a child to fully grasp her story I think they need to be mature enough to understand that good people make bad choices when they are trying to survive, and those individual choices don’t mean that the person as a whole is bad. I appreciate that the author included so many of the challenges Ella faced instead of glossing over them. It’s good for children to see how hard life can be for others and how that doesn’t mean that success can’t be attained.

susan b anthony

Susan B. Anthony: Fighter for Freedom and Equalilty (Biographies (Picture Window Books))by Suzanne Slade is a great introduction to Susan B. Anthony and why she is so much more than just a lady on coins. Although we often think of her as a suffragette she was also a champion of human rights and abolitionist. She fought for women’s right to vote knowing that she herself would never get the right. This book explains all that in terms kids can understand and relate to.

elizabeth leads the way

Elizabeth Leads the Way: Elizabeth Cady Stanton and the Right to Voteby Tanya Lee Stone made me teary eyed. If you aren’t familiar with Elizabeth Cady Staton grab this book because not only will it catch you up on the life of this women’s rights activist, it will also let you feel her sense of justice and determination. I wrote down the quote ” …wasn’t interested in easy.” which was in reference to her father saying she should have been born a boy so she would fit in better, but is a great quote for anything and anyone.

Eleanor quiet no more

Eleanor: Quiet No More by Doreen Rappaport is an inspiring look at Elanor Roosevelt’s life and legacy. Readers learn about Eleanor’s childhood, being orphaned and sent away to school in England where she experienced independence for the first time. It covers her romance and marriage with FDR is a sweet, loving way that won’t make your child cringe about “mushy” things but they will understand that there was real life and partnership. There is ample information about her work over the years as a politician’s wife as well as the First Lady. My favorite part of the book were all the fantastic quotes woven into the biography, it connects the reader to her and not just her story.

Before John Was a Jazz Giant: A Song of John Coltrane by Carol Boston Weatherford is a fascinating book for my son who discovered “Johnny Coltrane” on YouTube while asking me about saxophones a year ago. What I like about this book is that it allows young children to relate to someone so inaccessible, and untouchable like John Coltrane. My son immediately grabbed onto the idea that is explained in the book that all the sounds and music Coltrane heard as a child turned into music he played later on. Later that day we got into a deep and very long winded “Is that music Mama?” conversation and I wasn’t always sure what to say. I wasn’t expecting to get stumped by his questions so soon. Either way when a book sparks questions like that it’s a keeper!

teaching art appreciation

Just Behave, Pablo Picasso! by Johan Winter is a book not only about Pablo Picasso but also about creativity, courage and originality. The books gives the reader a little look into Picasso’s early life but really it’s about his evolution from realism to cubism and the resistance he got from just about everyone. I love how it painted Picasso as a brave individual who took the leap from doing what everyone loved to doing what he needed to do as an artist. It’s about being true to yourself and not selling out. It also really hammers home the ideas that people even adults can grow and change. One of my favorite things to as little kids is what they want to be when they grow up and really so often kids think when you are grown up it’s done, your choices were made and you just live with them after that. This helps explain that being a grown up doesn’t mean all your choices have already been chosen .

Picture Books About Worrying

books about worrying for kids anxiety books Young children have a hard time putting their fear into words ( umm tantrum anyone?) sometimes finding a book that adds words to their feelings is just what you need. Here are 16 books about worrying  and separation anxiety.

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Parts by Tedd Arnold is so funny. Readers follow along as a 5 year old boy begins noticing things about his body he’d never noticed before like belly button lint, snot, peeling skin, and more. His anxious assumptions about his body falling apart will have you in stitches. My 2 year old laughed and got most of the humor but slightly older children will be laughing hysterically at how silly the little boy’s worries are.

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First Day Jitters by Julie Danneberg has a special spot in my heart.  It’s a book about not wanting to go to a new school, the first day is always the hardest and it’s easier to just stay in bed! The beauty of this book isn’t just the recognition of the anxiety about the first day but in the end the twist is that it’s the teacher who has the jitters not a student. I love this book and the power it has to help anxious kids, I have read it more than once to a jittery child and see how it can help first hand.

don't worry bear

Don’t Worry Bear by Greg Foley is a short little book about a bear who is so so worried about his little caterpillar friend. Most children will figure out what is really going on and that the bear really doesn’t have anything to worry about but that’s not the beauty of this book. The beauty of this book are the awesome illustrations. They are simple but packed with emotions.

Wemberly Worried

Wemberly Worried by Kevin Henkes This book is about a little mouse who is about as anxious as possible. She worries about everything, and it makes her family worried too. This is a fantastic book to read before starting anything new! I read it for the children’s time at my church right before school started last fall. It was a great opener for a talk about anxiety. We all have worries and even though we may not worry as often or as fiercely as Wemberly this book makes it seem okay and normal to feel those feelings. The way the author illustrates both through words and pictures the intensity of her feelings really creates compassion in the reader for this little mouse. And that ability to understand what another is feeling is something that I desperately want to instill in my children.

kishand2

The Kissing Hand by Audry Penn is an absolute favorite . Chester is a raccoon who like most of us doesn’t like change. In his case it’s starting school. He wants to stay home with his mama and play with the friends he already has instead of going to school away from her and his friends. So his mama explains to him the magic of the kissing hand . The real magic is the message that we have to do things that scare us sometimes but that the love of our family is always with us to help us through. Go get this book.

teacher from the black lagoon

The Teacher from the Black Lagoon by Mike Thaler is the original book in the very popular Black Lagoon series. The imaginative story is all about a boy’s worries that his teacher is going to be a terrible child eating monster. My son giggled through the whole book and loved the gore and dark humor. I do not suggest reading this to very sensitive kids or ones that really are very nervous about school. It’s humor may not be reassuring, but kids comfortable with school will find it hilarious.

just in case

Just in Case by Judith Viorst is a funny and spot on look at the anxious child who must prepare for everything ” just in case”. As a worrier myself who must start at the worst possible scenario and then slowly come back to reality I get this book. It’s funny for kids who aren’t worriers and makes the anxious preparer feel like they aren’t alone.  The book also shows kids that they aren’t powerless to their worries.

Owl Babies

Owl Babies by Martin Waddell is perfectly written for toddlers who are eager to “do it myself” but still need a loving parent safely within view.  Three baby owls wake to find their mom away and as time passes the three all get more anxious in their own ways. My daughter loves this book and completely related to poor little Bill who repeats ” I want my mommy!” over and over.  At night she is very much like little Bill, but during the day she is braver like the other two owls Sarah and Percy. No matter what level of separation anxiety your child may have at times they will relate to one or all of the little owls. Of course the story ends with mama coming back and reassuring her little owl babies that she always will.

Scaredy Squirrel at night

Scaredy Squirrel at Night  by Melanie Watt. I love Scaredy Squirrel. His crazy anxiety, tendency to play dead and hilarious facial expressions never fail to make me laugh out loud while reading.  I love this installment because it talks about something very topical in many preschooler’s life – nighttime anxiety. I was expecting a funny book but it was also really touching and useful in regards to conquering fears. I must say for any new parent the bits about sleep deprivation will hit home, trust me.

scaredy squirrel makes a friend

Scaredy Squirrel Makes a Friend  by Melanie Watt is hilarious! I laughed  from start to finish, my son who was 18 months old didn’t get the humor at all but laughed at me laughing! Older preschoolers will get most of the humor though and like my son, will love the pictures ! Here is my favorite line : in very small print on the inside cover it reads ” * Caution: this story not suitable for walruses. ” Oh how I laughed ! The dry humor aside, the book follows an anxious squirrel looking for a friend , but one that is safe and won’t bite! Of course the message is about taking risks and kids will get it! I love this book!

my somebody special

My Somebody Special by Sarah Weeks is a sweet and simple book about that feeling when everyone else has been picked up from school or daycare except you. The illustrations accurately depict a preschool and I relate very well to and know many children will as well. Of course the last parent comes running in and all is well and a good reminder to children that sometimes parents are late but they will be there as soon as they can.

felix and the worrier

Felix and the Worrier by Rosemary Wells Let me start by saying I really love Rosemary Wells but I really really do not love this book. Often when I find books I don’t like I just omit them from round ups but when I saw this book on the shelf I thought ” I bet this one is great!” because of the author and grabbed it without thinking. The story is about Felix who worries a lot at night but the worries are personified as a freaky little yellow guy that taps on Felix’s window and comes in to scare him out of his happy dreams. All of the worries are over the top and while I understand what the author was trying to do the Worrier ( the little yellow guy) is just plain disturbing. The other thing I don’t like is how dismissive Felix’s mom was about his worries and how in the end it’s a puppy that fixes everything. If you have read this book and like it please offer an alternative review, I want to think that it might help some child but really it just made mine laugh nervously at the smiling but terrifying Worrier.

Love Waves

Love Waves by Rosemary Wells is about as far from the disturbing previous book as you could get. The book is all about those invisible but very real waves of love that connect child to parent no matter how far apart they are. In this one a little bunny is separated first from mom then from dad while they work outside the home, readers get to see the parents work , and miss the little bunny, then the happy reunion.  I loved this book but not as much as my daughter did. Very sweet and exactly what I’d expect from Rosemary Wells.

piglet and mama

Piglet and Mama by Margaret Wild is a book I would suggest for the under 3 crowd. My son loved it when he was 2. Piglet is searching for his mom and even though all the other animal mommies offer for him to join them and their babies he wants his mom! The illustrations by Stephen Michael King capture the warmth between a mama and her baby beautifully . My son had the “Mama” scream perfected and quite enjoyed seeing the little piglet do the same thing for her mama when we read this book. Even if separation anxiety isn’t something you are dealing with at your house this is a sweet book.

mama always comes home

Mama Always Comes Home by Karma Wilson was a last minute grab at the library that I am so thankful I saw. It starts off with animal mother’s leaving their babies, for all different reasons . A bird gathering food, a dog greeting his master and more. The animal mothers leave, but they also always return to their babies. Then it switches to a child and mother. She reassures the child that she will be back and we watch her leave, and return . I loved this book because my son isn’t the best when I leave him, he related to this book immediately and was repeating ” Mama always comes home!” half way through. { I originally reviewed this in 2009 and have since read it many times to my daughter who also needed those gentle reminders that I would always return. }

jake starts school

Jake Starts Schoolby Micheal Wright is such a great book that has just the right amount of sarcasm for the adults reading it and a great message and humor for the kids too. Jake is a little scared about his first day at school so he decides to hold on to his parents and not let go. The day wears on and his parents patience is wearing thin as they do everything stuck together including recess… but a great teacher finally gets Jake to connect with a book and become her helper and finally he lets go of him poor aching parents. I really enjoy this author/illustrator because I relate so well to his characters, Jake who is anxious and his parents that love him and will support him but aren’t necessarily thrilled to be sitting at his desk in his kindergarten class. I thought it was touching  and my son thought it was funny so it was a win win for us.