The books that I find myself reaching for the most when my kids need help are books about feelings. When my son has a hard day but doesn’t want to talk about it I grab Alexander and the Terrible Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day and even though it won’t always make him talk I know it does make him sleep better knowing that ” some days are like that.” Books can tell kids they aren’t alone, they can tell them it’s OK to be angry, and that feelings can’t be controlled but actions can. I didn’t go to the library for this book list, I went to the playroom. Every book here I own and have owned for years. These are my go to books. There are lots of other books about feelings and I would love for you to add your favorites in comments. All parents can use these titles so let’s create a great resource together.All book lists include affiliate links.
Feelings by Aliki is a book full of vignettes about emotions. From simple ones that make it clear what the children in them are feeling and how readers could see the situation to more complex and less clear ones that give readers a chance to discuss and decide for themselves what the people might be feeling. I love this book. Neither of my kids liked it as toddlers or preschoolers though. My son started really liking it at about 6 because that was when he could really talk about it all with experience and empathy. We rarely read it cover to cover instead picking and choosing pages and diving into the topic they are covering. It’s not a sugary sweet book but it’s an incredible tool.
When Sophie Gets Angry–Really, Really Angry… by Molly Bang is a book I bought while teaching. I had a lot of anger issues in my classroom and we spent a lot of time reading books about anger to diffuse it. When I suggest this book to parents I often get ” Really , kids like this?” as a response because the book seems much simpler than their expectations. It is simple. It is basic and yes it does include Sophie running away from the house to go be by herself which is something not all parents like. It also doesn’t include any discipline for her outburst which is also something that I hear complaints about. Here’s the thing what kids relate to is feeling angry, doing something about it , and becoming calm. I think Sophie has great self control , she knows that she needs to go be alone for a bit to calm down and then re-join the group. It’s exaggerated for effect but really this book is about learning how to stop raging not about encouraging it. Kids LOVE it. They relate and love knowing that after you calm down you can be welcomed back into the group.
Happy Hippo, Angry Duck: A Book of Moods by Sandra Boynton is a cute and funny board book about emotions. With funny illustrations and her fantastic rhymes Sandra Boynton covers many emotions and makes clear that emotions change and every day is different.
The Way I Feel by Janan Cain is a useful book. It labels feelings with a short rhyming piece of text and fanciful illustrations. While I wouldn’t suggest this as a book for a nightly read it is useful while specifically learning and talking about emotions. I like to have children show me their faces in the same feelings as the book progresses. If you are reading this with a small group or your child stop and talk about times when you felt these emotions.
The Grouchy Ladybug by Eric Carle is more than a cute book about a crabby bug. The Lady bug is looking for a fight and each hour she finds a bigger and bigger animal to fight with until she is unintentionally slapped by a big whale’s tail! I loved using this book to teach telling time, as there is a picture of an analog clock on each page. I would use a play clock and as I read each page ask one child to come and set our classroom clock. Also don’t be put off by the fact that the lady bug tries to pick fights, no animal takes her up on her offer and you can spin that into a great lesson about not giving into people who are trying to pick fights.
Pink Tiara Cookies For Three by Maria Dismondy is a story I think most of us can relate to . It’s about two best friends who’s friendship is challenged when another little girl is welcomed by one friend and not by the other. I know as a young girl I dealt with this and it was heartbreaking. Now as a mom I watch my son and his two closest friends deal with this often. The author does a beautiful job at recognizing the feelings of rejection, loneliness and anger that children feel when this happens. The little girls in the story are probably a little more capable at expressing themselves than our children but that makes this book even more important. As my son and I read it today we took a lot of breaks for me to ask if he’d ever felt like any of the characters and that got him talking, relating and connecting not only to one side of the issue but to both. Oh and please don’t think it’s a girly book, it’s not my son loved it. His exact words were ” This would be really good for teachers to read to classes. ” I agree.
The Grumpy Morning by Pamela Duncan Edwards is a great book. I think I got it as a freebie with a scholastic order years ago, either way I am so glad I have it. The book follows all the animals on a farm as they wake up grumpy and hungry and needing attention from the farmer. As a teacher I love this book because I could talk about whining, and demanding and ask my students if there are better ways to get what you want. As a parent I love this books because it’s a lighthearted way to talk about being grumpy instead of only bringing it up in the heat of the moment.
Wemberly Worried by Kevin Henkes is a book 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 in the 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. The ability to understand what another is feeling is something that I desperately want to instill in my own children.
Swimmy by Leo Lionni has been a favorite of mine for many years. I love Lionni and how he can weave multiple layers of meaning into a simple story for children. Swimmy is a story about a little fish who lost his family to a giant tuna fish and After grieving he is reminded of all the beautiful things in the ocean and goes on. When he came across a school of fish just like his former one hiding afraid of the big fish he knew he couldn’t let them miss out on all the wonders of the ocean and he rallied them to work as a team. This is a great book for teaching children about the power of bravery and working as a group to combat challenges.
Aggie the Brave by Lori Ries is a really wonderful book that combines lessons about worry and bravery. Aggie is getting spayed and both she and her owner go through various emotions from the time they drop her off at the vet until her stitches are removed weeks later. Not only is this just a really great book to teach kids about what happens to their pets when they go into to be payed or neutered it’s also a wonderful book about worry and what it means to be brave. The love between the little boy and his dog jumps off the pages and I got chocked up when the little boy cried on the drive home after dropping the dog off for surgery. We can all relate to that feeling of driving away filled with worry. Great book!
Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day by Judith Viorst was a childhood favorite that I have enjoyed sharing with my own kids. This book is beautiful, even though it may take a few reads to see it’s not a story about a whining little boy so much a lesson that sometimes things do not go our way. Days can suck. It’s just the way it is. As a child I related to Alexander’s feelings of frustration and things being unfair. How often to you hear a child say “No Fair!” probably a lot. This book taps into that feeling, being little is hard but just because you are mad, or your day was bad doesn’t mean you get your way. Great book to talk about anger and frustration with your child, and it’s funny too.
Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus! by Mo Willems might not need much of a review as I don’t know many parents who haven’t laughed along with their kids reading this book. But if you have never read this book let me tell you about it and why so many of us think it’s hilarious. The book opens with a bus driver asking readers to do him a favor and not let the pigeon drive the bus, easy right? Well just like my 5 year old son who is practicing for the negotiator of the year award this pigeon is relentless. When I asked my son what his favorite part of the book was he giggled loudly while telling me that he loves the tantrum the pigeon has. Kids know what it’s like to be frustrated. They know what it’s like to not be allowed to do something and the exasperation that comes with it. Pigeon is frustrated and this book is a great and hilarious tool for parents to talk about that feeling.
Which book would you add to our list?
I’m a crier. Not about my own life, that rarely makes me cry unless I am spitting mad but movies, books, and the news always makes me cry. I am always in awe of picture books that can make me weep because it’s not easy to convey such deep emotions with limited text and static pictures. These authors and illustrators hit it out of the park. I can’t promise you that you will need tissues but I do know you will be moved and hope you don’t shy away from sharing them with your children. Kids can learn a lot from books with emotional elements. While seeing a parent tear up can be upsetting the opportunities to explain why and talk about their reaction to the book are really valuable.All the book titles are affiliate links to Amazon.com
On the Day His Daddy Left by Eric J. Adams made me gasp for air I was crying so hard. It was a great book for my son who is just starting to notice differences in his friends families, although the book is really geared towards children 5 years and older. It’s about a little boy who knows his parents are divorcing and his dad is moving out after school that day. Early in the book he writes a secret question on a piece of paper and throughout the day shows it to select people. When the question is revealed as ” Is it my fault?” I dare any parent not to choke up. My son was saying ” Mama, mama read it to me.” and I couldn’t I had to have a cry first. I think the authors did a wonderful job addressing both this little boys anxiety, guilt and the reactions of very loving and concerned parents.
A Mama for Owen by Marion Dane Bauer makes me cry every time I read it, and not just because I am pregnant ( this review is from 2010 I am not expecting) It’s a true story about a baby Hippo who lost his mama in the Tsunami that so many other babies both creature and human did . The story is one about friendship , about adoption and about love. See Owen the little Hippo finds Mzee a big old giant tortoise and even though they are different species, and Mzee is a boy, Owen treats him like his mama.
Edited for 2013 – Even though I had read it with my son many times as a toddler when we read it together when he was 5 and fully aware of the finality of losing a parent in devastated him and I was left feeling terrible. He was very upset by this and I wanted to mention how differently kids can accept books years later because of their greater understanding of the world.
Is There Really a Human Race? by Jamie Lee Curtis made me cry. My husband would say that’s not exactly hard , but it is when it’s a book not many bring me to tears. I really like this book and so did my son which surprised me because I thought it would be too long and sophisticated for a 2 year old. The rhyming text was so well written that it along with the adorable illustrations by Laura Cornell kept him happily interested as I read it to him before nap. I thought that the message was going to be about race relations, but instead it was about the rat race, and how it’s more important to try your best, help others and to be bold. The line ” And for those who can’t speak for themselves use bold voices” was when I lost it. I hope that lesson is one I can teach my son, to stand up for others. Okay so maybe I am a softy but this book is great! Edited for 2013 – This book has now become a family favorite and my son and I have read it often in the 4 years since this original review and yes I still cry when we read it.
Whoever You Are by Mem Fox. Every time I read this I get goosebumps. The book is simple and talks about the differences of little children all over the world, but focuses on what they all have in common. Children of various cultures are shown , smiling, laughing, crying and the reader can see that even if the clothes , or houses or food is different the insides are the same. I always choke up reading this book because it’s so beautiful and a great reminder for all of us that while we so often focus on what we see as different most of what we have is in common.
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 one woman 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 in my 30s and I feel inspired reading this as a woman, to think of the power it can have over young girls excites me. I can not wait to read this to my daughter.
Brontorina by James Howe is possibly one of my new favorite books on the planet. It’s not a new book but I have never read it before. My daughter loved it and while the lesson about creating inclusive environments went over her head the lesson about being true to yourself and doing something that has never been done before didn’t. The story is about a dinosaur who wants to be a ballerina and while a studio initially allows her to dance it’s clear that she is just too big. The story doesn’t end there and with some help from friends who support her dream they find a way to include everyone. I dare you not to tear up when the ballet teacher tells Brontarina that she MUST dance.
That Summer by Tony Johnson. I read this at the library alone knowing that my 3 year old wasn’t ready for a book about death quite yet. I didn’t even try to conceal my tears, I wasn’t crying I was sobbing. The book is about the summer that one little boy watches his brother Joey get sick and die from Cancer. The author does a masterful job at relating grief, and the sadness of watching someone you love and don’t expect to die, get weak and leave you. As Joey’s condition worsens he learns to quilt and ultimately it’s his brother who finishes his quilt. I can’t rave about this book enough it simply makes the reader get it, as much as you can without ever living this particular nightmare. The line that haunted me was ” I learned a lot that summer, how to grin when your heart is in shreds..” that was the line that forced me into the “ugly cry”.
Did I Tell You I Love You Today? by Deloris Jordan is a very practical yet heartwarming look at all the ways parents show love to their children everyday, from feeding them healthy food to praying after they go to bed. My son loved all the big boy things in the book like, the school bus, basketball and the playground. I teared up reading the book, but I cry at American Idol so that may not be indicative of anything!
Librarian on the Roof! by M.G. King made me cry. The true story is about a librarian who did what she needed to do to raise enough money to make a functional children’s section in the oldest library in Texas. What she did was stay on the roof of that library for a week, and it worked. I loved the message that libraries are vital, that books open doors , and that providing access to information to those who can’t afford to get it on their own is a worthwhile cause. This book made me want to cheer, it had me spouting off lessons left and right to my kids , and it absolutely captivated all three of us. Go read this book and learn more about RoseAleta Laurell the real librarian on the roof.
Love You Forever by Robert Munsch is perhaps the classic tear jerking picture book. I read this for years and years to children and had no problem getting choked up, it never bothered me, then I gave birth and I can’t read it without sobbing. The premise is simple, a mom sings this simple song to her son as he grows ” I’ll love you forever, I’ll like you for always, as long as you’re living , my baby you’ll be.” until she can’t sing it anymore and it’s his turn. For days after I read this I tear up as I lay my son in his crib. * Edited to add that many readers have commented that they do not like this book at all! What do you think? Leave a comment and tell us!
Let Them Play by Margot Theis Raven and Chris Ellison is an amazing book, it tells the true story of the 1955 State Champion Little League team from South Carolina. The story is heartbreaking and heartwarming all at once as the authors tell the readers about the realities and injustice that this team of little boys faced. They were the first all black all star team who were disqualified from playing in the little league world series because they hadn’t played a single game to become state champs, because all the other teams forfitted. I dare you not to cry, I was a sobbing mess by the end. The book itself is too complex for really little guys, my son had no interest in the text, though he loved the pictures. All kids old enough though should take a look, and be prepared to answer some tough questions about why people were so mean. Wonderful wonderful, important book!
Moon Rabbit by Natalie Russell is a calm, beautiful book about two rabbits who find each other and become great friends even thought they are from different places. White Rabbit is a city rabbit and loves her urban home but is called away by the longing for company. She finds it in a park with Brown Rabbit who is wonderful and plays beautiful music. There is just one glitch White Rabbit misses the city. I loved this book, my son liked it too but it almost made me cry. My husband and I are from different countries and long distance relationships are so hard , I wanted to jump in the book and tell White Rabbit that . I had to restrain myself from saying ” The pressure will be too much , the limited time will make them argue and fight.” when my son pointed out that I shouldn’t be sad that White Rabbit leaves the park and goes home because he comes for a visit in the end. But if ever I projected my own experience onto a book it was this , wow. It really is a sweet tale about friends who can be friends despite physical distance. Oh and the illustrations , they are the very definition of springtime. Lovely.
Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak is one of those books that makes me cry just when I think of it. If you aren’t familiar with this book it’s not sad. It’s about a little boy who is acting up and gets sent to his room. While in his room his imagination runs wild and he is transported to a world where there are no rules , no parents and no consequences for bad behavior. Ultimately though Max’s heart pulls him back home where he is loved most of all, even when he’s wild. I think this is an amazing love story about parents and children and unconditional love.
Amos & Boris by William Steig is a touching story about the power of an unlikely friendship and helping others. Amos is a mouse who is rescued by Boris a whale when he goes overboard in the middle of the ocean. After the rescue they develop a tender friendship despite their obvious differences and go on their separate ways with full hearts. Many years later though it is Amos’ turn to rescue Boris and we are all reminded that size does not equal ability to help a friend. This book is the odd one out on this list. My son actually started crying when I read it to him a few months ago ( not the first time we read it) and then after he explained that he was worried they’d never see each other ever again it clicked he was finally old enough to get that, and I wept.
Hair for Mama by Kelly A. Tinkham is beautiful. The story is about a little boy who is desperate to find some hair for his mama who has lost hers to chemotherapy. Marcus wants mama to be in the family photo but she doesn’t want to be the way she looks. His mission comes to a climax when he shaves off all his own hair hoping to give it to his mama. When the barber sweeps it up with the other hair on the floor Marcus is heart broken and goes home in tears. I was sobbing reading this, I knew it was a story about a mom having cancer but the way the author wrote it , it was magical. The complex emotions this little boy felt for his mom and she for him, jumped off the page and you can’t help but cry. I wasn’t sad ,I was touched by the love and desire to fix his mom and make everything better, and his parents tenderness to his feelings. I can’t recommend this book more highly. I should note that this is not a book for toddlers, I would probably wait until a child is 4-5 before reading them this gem.
Dad, Jackie, and Me by Myron Ulburg is a touching look at father’s and son’s and the complex relationship that develops at the same time as tackling bigger themes like discrimination and baseball. A father and son share a love of baseball and specifically of Jackie Robinson. This book handles these multiple themes very well and will likely create a few lumps in your throat as you read the sometimes achingly honest text. I really liked this book and how it linked different kinds of discrimination, adversity and the way the human spirit can triumph over both.
A Father Like That by Charlotte Zolotow touched my heart. I have always been lucky to have a dad who was involved and present in my life, but this book is about the opposite. A little boy is telling his mom about what he wants in a dad, because he doesn’t have one. The book covers so many things dads do or don’t do, and while the dream dad isn’t perfect he is fair, loving and kind. I was tearing up as the book neared the end because I was wondering how the mom who was hearing all of this was going to react. Throughout the list of things the dad would do there were things for his mom too, mostly her being able to take a break and rest. Which made me feel sad that a little boy would have to worry about his mom, but I am sure that is all too common. The end pushed me over the edge, and my son who was drifting off to sleep while I was reading popped up and wiped my tears which made me cry harder because he was taking care of me. It ends with his mama saying that even though he may never have a father like that , that one day he can be a father like that. Great book for all families.
What children’s books make you cry? Tell us in comments!
No one plans on getting a divorce but for many families it’s a reality. Whenever children must face complex transitions or emotional events like divorce books are a great tool for coping, learning, and breaking the ice. There are a lot of books about divorce for kids and I may have missed one that you have found helpful for your family. Please share the title in comments because this list is one I would love to grow as much as possible.
You may not be going through a divorce yourself but your child may still have questions about what divorce is because someone they know is going through it. How do you talk to your child about divorce without making them worry that your family is on the verge of a break up? Zina at Let’s Lasso The Moon tackles that questions in her post about 5 Tips For Talking To Your Kids About Divorce. What’s your advice? Share it in comments.All book lists contain affiliate links.
On the Day His Daddy Left by Eric J. Adams made me gasp for air I was crying so hard. It was a great book for my son who is just starting to notice differences in his friends families, although the book is really geared towards children 5 years and older. It’s about a little boy who knows his parents are divorcing and his dad is moving out after school that day. Early in the book he writes a secret question on a piece of paper and throughout the day shows it to select people. When the question is revealed as ” Is it my fault?” I dare any parent not to choke up. My son was saying ” Mama, mama read it to me.” and I couldn’t I had to have a cry first. I think the authors did a wonderful job addressing both this little boy’s anxiety, guilt and the reactions of very loving and concerned parents.
Dinosaurs Divorce (A Guide for Changing Families) by Laurene Krasny Brown will appeal to your kids. The book is in comic book style and manages to be funny more than once while tackling all the negatives about divorce. It also talks about the positives about having happier parents and less fighting. This book aims to address all the mights and possibilities and while I think it succeeds, it also might talk about things that won’t be relevant to you. Things like a parent drinking more, being spoiled with things, and mom and dad dating might not be relevant now or ever for your family but talking about those things and how they do or don’t apply to your family can be helpful too.
How Do I Feel About My Parents’ Divorce by Julia Cole did something that no other book I reviewed did which was to address “splitting up” not just legal divorce. This book includes families that aren’t married but who are breaking up none the less. I think this is so important and was actually shocked this was the only book to address it. The book had different children talking about their experiences and I think it’s a great format even if your child’s experience doesn’t fit exactly knowing that no situation is exactly like another is helpful when it’s coupled with knowing that lots of people go through divorce in general. While this book doesn’t hold back on the negatives it does include a lot of reassurance that there is a light at the end of the tunnel. I think this book would be great for kids 4-8.
Weekends with Dad: What to Expect When Your Parents Divorce (Life’s Challenges)by Melissa Higgins is a good choice for preschoolers facing a divorce. This book isn’t all about the harsh realities but rather the real feelings, real reassurance needed to cope with so much change. The family in the book is divorcing but it’s very much a amicable divorce and the book focuses on how much parents love their kids and how it will all be OK. This is my pick for preschoolers.
When My Parents Forgot How to Be Friends (Let’s Talk About It!) by Jennifer Moore Mallinos focuses very much on how a child grieves when their parents divorce. The book focuses on how hard it is when parents fight but that it will be better and parents won’t always be fighting. I think this could be a really great book for many kids but I also think that the part when they have a family night just like old times could be potentially confusing to kids who hope for a reconciliation. Although I suspect the author didn’t mean for it to show anything other than parents being able to get along after a divorce in the mid of a hopeful child it could easily be taken another way.
Two Homes by Claire Masurel is a simple book that doesn’t really get into what divorce is but does aim to reassure children who are facing life in two homes. It’s no big deal even if a child may miss the parent they are away from. That’s OK too because like the book says no matter where a child is they are loved no matter where their parents are. Such a positive book !
I Don’t Want to Talk About It by Jeanie Franz Ransom is a book about a little girl who is being told her parents are getting a divorce and all the complex emotions she faces during that one very difficult discussion. As she experiences the different feelings she is represented by different animals. I wasn’t sure of this at first but a few pages in and I saw the brilliance. Kids don’t always want to open up about how they are feeling and using animal behaviors to express them is a great alternative.
Standing on My Own Two Feet: A Child’s Affirmation of Love in the Midst of Divorce by Tamara Schmitz is a great book for preschoolers. Very young kids don’t understand what marriage and divorce means but they do understand that they are now living in two houses with separate parents. This book reassures kids that it’s not their fault that their parents aren’t together anymore and that no matter where they are they are loved. The text is short and the illustrations are fun. I highly recommend this one for families with very young kids.
Room for Rabbit by Roni Schooter is a really beautiful book about divorce a little while after the initial break up. In it Kara’s dad has remarried and now new anxieties and feelings of not having a place in this new marriage have cropped up. This book is a lovely and in depth look at feelings that accompany what happens when one parent remarries after a divorce. The target is preschool but the text is pretty lengthy for kids under 5. I would be tempted to read and edit for length if need be. The illustrations by Cyd Moore and story are great even if the text is a little long for the intended audience.
My Family’s Changing (A First Look At Series) by Pat Thomas This book is a good choice for families who want to explain all the parts of divorce while reassuring their children that it’s not their fault and that it won’t change how much they love them. This book discusses the negatives but is very general about them. The book was clearly written as a tool for conversation and should be used as such. It’s not as entertaining as it is useful but overall I would highly recommend it for kids 4 and older.
Let’s Talk about Your Parents’ Divorce (Let’s Talk Library) by Elizabeth Weitzman is a very blunt book. This can be great for some families but I would not read this book to very sensitive children without being prepared to soften it . I would not read this one to children who aren’t facing a contentious divorce themselves. There is a lot of reassuring about both parents loving the kids but it was also very heavy on the negatives like parents saying bad things about each other to the kids, legal battles over custody ,and one parent moving away and not calling often. Yes this is the reality for some children and I am glad this book exists but I would give it a thorough read through to see if it fits your specific family situation first. I don’t want to make it sound like this isn’t a good book, it is, but it is not a fluffy happy ” Don’t worry everyone still loves you.” one either.
Music is so much more than entertainment. The connection between music lessons and better performance on IQ tests has been accepted for a long time in the education world. My focus is not on boosting my kids IQ by 7 points so much as offering them rich and diverse experiences with hopes that something will strike their fancy and turn into a passion or pastime. Learning to play an instrument takes dedication and for me that alone is a wonderful take away. Books are a great place to start exploring different instruments with very young kids from the comfort of your own home. If you live in an area with a symphony check to see when they might have child friendly performances and workshops to see the instruments in action.
Here are 15 books about music for kids to check out at your house. The book title will take you to Amazon.com via an affiliate link.
Tuba Lessons by T.C. Bartlett is a book about a little boy walking to his tuba lesson and all the things he encounters along the way. The book has very limited text but tells a sweet story perfectly without it. Younger children will need a parent to help spark the story with questions about what’s happening but even my 2 year old clued into the music notes getting bigger when there was a louder sound and smaller when it was quiet. Grab it and see what I am talking about.
This Jazz Man by Karen Ehrhardt is my new favorite book. The book updates the classic children’s song “This Old Man” and inserts all different men in a jazz band, however at the end of the book it explains that each jazz man is actually a real person including Louis Armstrong, Dizzy Gillespie and more! I love the bios at the end of the book because I want to learn more about jazz too. OK back to the book, the book itself is a counting book,and my son eats it up, he loves calling out the number and instrument as I read the rhyme. He has had me read it countless times today and I haven’t minded one bit,the pictures by R.G. Roth are adorable, and all in all I just love this book!
I Know a Shy Fellow Who Swallowed a Cello by Barbara S. Garriel was an instant favorite with my son. The text is a reworked version of “An Old Lady Who Swallowed A Fly” but this guy has a hankering for musical instruments. My son giggled through the book, and was very adamant that no one could swallow a harp but this fellow did ! I liked this book because it’s a fun and absurd, as well as educational. If your wee one is as into instruments as mine, you have to read this book.
Meet the Orchestra by Ann Hayes is a good resource for teaching about musical instruments. The book goes through many instruments found in an orchestra with a sizable description for each. Animals are used for the musicians and my son thought that was funny and actually learned a bit about them as well. It was really too long for us to sit and read cover to cover but it’s easy to break up and read one or two instruments at a time if it’s too much for your child in one sitting. Also there is some figurative language that young kids will not get at all. Helpful for teaching but I don’t expect it to become a favorite to snuggle up with.
Edited: This has been the bedtime book of choice for over two weeks now, I take back my comment about it not being one to snuggle up with!
Ben’s Trumpet by Rachel Isadora is a simple but profound book about one little boy’s dreams. Ben loves jazz, his favorite is the trumpet and he spends much time alone playing his imaginary trumpet and listening at the door of a local jazz club. When other kids make fun of his imaginary trumpet he stops playing, that is until the trumpeter himself steps in. I like this book and as a mom of a little boy who plays an imaginary trumpet often I love that it gave him something to relate to and confirm that dreaming and imagining is good for the soul.
Music over Manhattan by Mark Karlins was longer than I expected but when I read it to my very overtired , no nap today 2 year old he happily listened and pointed out the instruments, and sky scrappers. The story is about a little boy who is overshadowed by his high achieving and nauseating cousin. A musician uncle plants the love of music in him and he strives to become as good as his uncle who floats in the air when he plays. Something I loved about this book was that the little boy works very hard, he practices all the time ,and slowly gets better. He had talent to start with but still had to work hard to achieve his goal. A great lesson for all children.
Punk Farm by Jarrett J. Krosoczka . I wanted to love this book but it was just meh. I like the idea for it very much and some of the details were hilarious like horse acting as a bouncer for the punk show but the meat of the book just didn’t do it for me. Most of the book is a variation of Old MacDonald with different instrument sounds and by the second animal I was so over singing this song, maybe I just don’t like that song… I have been teased with it most of my life. My kids liked the book and we all loved the illustrations.
by Kathleen Krull is a wonderful book, however it’s style and illustrations by Stacy Innerst while funky aren’t as literal as I had hoped. This isn’t an issue for older children at all, and I really enjoyed the book but the nuanced illustrations were just too hard for a toddler to make the connections . My son still liked many of the pages especially the G is for guitar one. I would use this book for teaching about music more so than as an alphabet book teaching letters.
Mole Music by David McPhail is a beautiful book about the power of music, trying hard ,and not giving up on your dreams. The story is about a mole who sees a violin on TV one day and decides to get his own and play. He is terrible at first but sticks with it. His music becomes beautiful, and over the years he thinks only he can hear and enjoy it. In reality his music is nourishing a grand tree above the ground that serves roles in great things including as a mediator in a battle where both sides end up coming to a peaceful agreement instead of warfare. Now yes I think that one little mole’s music ending a war is a rather large statement but if you break it down, music and the arts are vital and do transform people’s lives the way they transformed Mole’s. My favorite part is in one illustration Mole is playing and in another tunnel you can see his old TV discarded and tipped over, I like that message.
Sunny by Robin Mitchell and Judith Steedman is a great book about finding sounds all around and making music with anything and everything you find. Sunny hears music from the animals around town, the vehicles and of course his friends playing at the playground. My son loved when they had a “Hootenanny” and everyone makes music in their own way. This book reminded me of the Broadway show “Stomp” from the 90s, and is a great lesson for kids about how accessible making music really is.
Zin! Zin! Zin! A Violin by Lloyd Moss is a big hit at our house and if you have a child into music or musical instruments this is a great book. You count the instruments as they come on stage for a performance and not only is this a great counting book, but it introduces musical instruments with it’s rhyming text and super fun pictures. I am biased though my little man is really really into instruments and loves this book. The day we bought it I had to sit in the backseat with him on the way home from the bookstore because he couldn’t wait to read it .
Max Found Two Sticks by Brian Pinkney is a great book for any kid that likes to drums or stick, or drum sticks. So that pretty much means all kids. Max isn’t a talker but he can express all sorts of things by thumping and banging the sticks he finds on different things. I like how he imitates the changing sounds in his environment and my son loved the marching band . Great tool for teaching about sounds, music ,and self expression.
Moose Music by Sue Porter is a goofy book about how what might sound like a racket to you, may indeed be music to other ears. Moose finds a violin in the mid and picks it up, and plays it. The sound is not music to the animals and people in the forest. They get angry, they threaten to chase him, and he doesn’t stick around. He doesn’t stop playing though he plays with all his heart and finally someone appreciates it. My son thought this book was hilarious . It’s a cute lesson about following your heart even in the face of adversity.
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!
Jazz Baby by Lisa Wheeler had my son clapping and be bopping in his jammies before bed. This book is so fun to read, the musical words are impossible not to dance to. My son loves jazz, and his only disappointment was that there were no trumpets in the book. He didn’t understand that the family in the book , which included grandparents, aunts , uncles and cousins were listening to a record. I tried to tell him it was like a cd but the illustration was clearly a record player and he wasn’t buying it. Still we loved this book , the family was loving and I loved that the older brother was holding the baby, not common in kids books to see a boy holding a baby. Great book even without a trumpet.
It’s Banned Books Week and today I want to share with you some banned books we have reviewed and enjoyed. When I wrote an article over at Scholastic Parents this week about banned books and how I use them to teach my children lessons the response was overwhelmingly positive but what struck me was how shocked so many people were that books still get banned. The first step to banning is challenging a book and the most common people making challenges are parents. I get that parents want to protect their kids and discuss issues with them when they decide to but I simply can’t see banning a book from other people’s children as the answer.
This summer I published a list of picture books that include families with gay and lesbian parents and I lost a few dozen Facebook followers , a number of email subscribers and fielded some pretty brutal comments about me and my children. I expected it. I know that the world has many viewpoints and not everyone shares mine. So after you browse the books below tell me how would you want these books handled? Are you in favor of free access like I am? Restricting access? All out banning?All book lists include affiliate links.
Animalia by Graeme Base is iconic in teaching circles, you can loose yourself for hours in the detailed illustrations. The book is an alphabet book on steroids! Each page had a wonderful paragraph in each letter such as for the letter L ” Lazy Lions lounging in the local library.” The pages are filled to the gills with pictures of things that start with that letter as well. Parents and kids a like will fall in love!
Why was it banned or challenged? It was challenged at a school library in Texas for violence and horror. This surprised me because I have a seriously low threshold for horror and I have never been bothered at all, neither have the approximately 150 kids I have read it to over the years.
Draw Me a Star by Eric Carle is often not read in classrooms simply because of a depiction of a naked man and woman. It’s not what most parents expect to find in an Eric Carle book but it is very fitting in this beautiful and really touching book. The story although very similar to a biblical creation story isn’t necessarily reflective only of a christian view point , rather as I read it is was the author’s own creation. It begins and ends with a star , and hits all the right points in between.
Why was it banned or challenged? Banned because of nude depiction of a man.
King and King by Linda de Haan is a fairytale and a funny one at that. The queen is old and cranky and wants her son to take over the kingdom but he must be married to do so. He tells her he’s not really into princesses but Mama doesn’t take the hint. After finding fault with every princess presented to him he falls in love at first sight with a prince and they live happily ever after. I like the whimsical illustrations and my kids thought the prince was funny. My son thought the book had a twist at the end with the princes falling in love, but just like the queen in the story there was no debate over why. I like that this book uses the familiar fairytale structure to make an important statement about the existence of same sex marriage and can be a great ice breaker to talk about it with your kids.
Why was it banned of challenged? Banned and often restricted to adults because of the depiction of gay marriage.
The Sissy Ducklingby Harvey Fierstein is a lovely book. As a mom to a son I worry about him getting teased when he is older if he isn’t into sports, or likes to bake cookies more than play video games. This book address that, in a cute but frank way. I especially love how the dad isn’t super happy that his son is into more traditionally girly things. I think that even though we hope that all parents would be immediately supportive the reality is, that parents are human too and acceptance can take time even when there is lots of love. ETA: Now that my son is almost 6 and very into sports and very into pretty much everything that is stereotypically “boy” I use this book to teach him the other side. To see that all people are unique and to respect everyone for that uniqueness not for their ability to fit some societal mold.
So why was it banned? The reasons given were gay positive themes. As you will see that is unfortunately a recurrent theme on this short list.
Walter the Farting Dog by William Kotzwinkle and Glenn Murray is a story about a dog with really bad gas but a really loving family. The book does talk a lot about farting but it’s really about unconditional love. Kids love it, will giggle through it and it has a way with kids that don’t call themselves readers. I talk more about the power of potty humor in this article for Scholastic Parents.
Why was it challenged? Challenged but retained for the use of the words fart and farting repeatedly throughout the text.
Heather Has Two Mommies by Lesléa Newman was widely banned when it was first released. It is probably the best known picture book about a family with same sex parents . When you read it the first thing you will probably think is that it doesn’t live up to the banning. I always imagine banned books to be truly out there and this book is about a family with a doctor , a carpenter and their daughter. Heather is starting a new school and she is nervous and exploring all the possibilities of what a family looks like just as her classmates are. She recognizes that her family is different but not less than. The illustrations are black and white and a little dated but the story is on the right track.
Why was it banned or challenged? Banned because of it’s acceptance of lesbian mothers raising a child.
The Family Book by Todd Parr is a book that doesn’t give readers a narrow definition of family , it doesn’t say that your family has to look a certain way, or be the same as your neighbors. As a teacher I really appreciated the matter of fact way it embraced diversity. Kids see that families are not all like theirs and it’s important to validate the truth while recognizing that while they may not all look alike, all families are made with love. Great book , cute illustrations and children love it.
Why was this book banned or challenged? This book wasn’t banned 10 years ago it was just recently banned from use for an elementary school curriculum about diversity, tolerance and bullying. It was banned from a curriculum about tolerance. Am I the only one who sees the irony? The issue was with it’s pages that state that some families have two moms and some have two dads. It makes me sad that some children who do have two moms or two dads won’t get a chance to see their family reflected in this bright, fun and diverse book.
And Tango Makes Three by Justin Richardson is a much debated book. It’s the true story of two male penguins in Central Park Zoo who didn’t have any interest in the girl penguins but definitely liked each other. When the zoo keepers noticed that they were in every way a matched pair they also noticed that they prepared for a baby just like the other penguins. Time after time they were sad until they were given an egg to care for. Just like all families love and care is what matters when creating a family and baby Tango and his two daddies have thrived . My son loved this book and asked me to please go see the penguins when I was in New York City. I didn’t have time to but I wish I had. Their story simplifies a very debated topic and I think it’s a great book not only to explain how all families are different but also how love and care are really what makes a family even for penguins.
Why was this book banned or challenged? This picture book was the most frequently challenged and banned book of 2010, 2008, 2007 and 2006. A true story about a family of penguins. Wow.
Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets by J.K. Rowling . My husband has just started reading book 2 in this series to my son at bedtime and they are hooked! They finished the first book a few months ago and we took a break before book 2. I love the whole Harry Potter series and it hasn’t been without much discussion between my husband and I on how we are going to space out the books. If you have read them you know that the subjects age and mature as the characters do by a school year with each book. I encourage parents to read any book that they are going to share with their young kids first to make sure it won’t scare or upset your child as well as to make sure it fits with your family. What I love so much about these books is that JK Rowling has created such a thick and detailed world and it grips even kids that don’t normally get into books as much as it does little bookworms!
Why was it challenged and banned? People get really upset about witch craft and if you google ” Harry Potter Banned” you will get recent articles and blog posts promoting it’s banning. Really.
In the Night Kitchen (Caldecott Collection) by Maurice Sendak is one of the many books I remember exactly where I was when I first read it ; Coquitlam Public Library sitting in the shag carpeted row boat amazed that the main character Mickey had no clothes . Which is exactly why it got banned. First let me tell you about the story if you have never read it. Mickey falls out of bed and into the night kitchen where the bakers try to bake him and ultimately he saves the day and falls back into bed and back to sleep. For me this story is about power and freedom and how kids don’t get to feel that day to day but free from reality at night in their sleep they can. Even as a little girl giggling at the pictures in the book I read the words and felt the freedom from being little that Mikey felt. When I read it to my son he giggled and giggled at Mickey’s body. I was sorta hoping he’d be more mature than I was at 5, we always expect the best from our kids right? Like me he still got the heart of the story and even expressed that Mickey was naked because he was dreaming and got to do whatever he wanted.
So why was is banned? That whole lack of clothing issue really upset a lot of people. So much so that it’s been in the top 25 banned books for decades.
Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak probably doesn’t need an introduction especially with the current film adaptation. We read this book often and my son randomly quotes the book throughout the day. Telling me to “Be still” just like Max tells the Wild Things. If by chance you are not familiar with this book, it’s a story of a little boy Max who is sent to his room for being wild and his imagination turns it into another world, filled with Wild Things and freedom from rules for behavior. Ultimately though Max’s heart pulls him back home where he is loved most of all, even when he’s wild.
So why was it banned or challenged? It was challenged widely because of it’s inclusion of “witchcraft and supernatural elements.” Guess those are my things because I adore this book and the whole Harry Potter series that has also been banned and challenged for these reasons.
Sylvester and the Magic Pebble by William Steig is a book many of you may recognize from your own childhood . I remember the sweet story from my own. Sylvester is a little donkey who finds a magic pebble and after discovering that it grants wishes he makes a terrible mistakes and turns himself into a rock. As a rock he is unable to wish himself back into a donkey and is left to sit silently while his parents are frantic, search and finally grieve. Sylvester almost gives up himself until by chance his parents come across his rock and the magic pebble and he is turned back into his “true self”. My son loved the story and I loved how when we talked about it he expressed so much empathy for Sylvester and his parents. The obvious message that you have to be careful what you wish for is a powerful one for kids learning about consequences. The other messages which for us were the more important ones were that family bonds can break through anything and that no matter what even if he is a rock I would never give up on him.
Now it sounds like a great book right? It is. So why was it banned? When Sylvester goes missing his parents go to the police who are portrayed as pigs. All the characters are animals and my son didn’t make the connection because he’s never in his life heard anyone refer to police officers as pigs. I thought it was tongue in cheek but in 1977 it was enough to get banned.
Daddy’s Roommate by Micheal Willhoite is a little different from the other books in this list in that the child in the book has a mommy, a daddy ,and daddy also has a roommate. The book was written in 1990 and even though we don’t often hear “roommate” as a euphemism for partner or boyfriend anymore but in 1990 is was probably more common. That aside the book does a good job of explaining what this little boys life is like. Bug catching, reading, scary dreams… it’s pretty average stuff but he has three adults to care for him. I also like that the boy’s parents are divorced which will be something many readers will connect with. The books explanation of what gay means is really simple and perfect for the books audience. I do think that the pictures are dated but I don’t think kids will pick up on that as much as adults will.
Why was it banned or challenged? It is one of the most banned books because of it’s gay subject matter.
So what would you do with these books? How would you talk about them or restrict them from your child?