Traveling with young kids isn’t always a possibility but exposing your children to the world through books is simple. These 27 books can turn your living room into Africa, Asia or New York City! Kids can learn about differences and similarities with children an ocean away while snuggled in their own bed. These multicultural books let your kids see into other children’s lives and imagine themselves in that shoes. Take time to read and talk about these books, research the countries further , try some new foods, just keep the learning going. Check out some crafts from around the world here too! Do you have a favorite book about another country or culture? Add it in comments so we can keep this list growing.
Madeline in London by Ludwig Bemelmans . Madeline takes her fearlessness to London in this follow up to the classic Madeline story. Like the original the text is a rhyming masterpiece and I love that this story includes real London sights in it’s illustrations, such as Buckingham Palace, Westminster Abbey , the Tower Bridge and Trafalgar Square. Do be forewarned that there is a little reference to making glue out of dead horses after a horse in the story is believed to be dead. Not to worry though the horse is not dead after all and the glue reference should sail right over kids heads. After reading this to my Pre K class we got down a globe and found where Paris and London were. For weeks 2 little girls played airplane and their destination was always London. A single book can really open doors!
My Granny Went to Market by Stella Blackstone is a book I got to know very well when writing lessons for Itty Bitty Bookworm preschool curriculum using it. This a a really fantastic book that is filled with language arts, geography and math lessons. Granny is a traveler and everywhere she goes she picks up a number of souvenirs. Not only are a number of countries like Switzerland, Mexico and Peru visited, but the souvenirs she buys relate to the country’s culture and offer even more learning opportunities for interested kids. The rhyming text will enchant even the youngest world traveler , this is a must for any jet setting family!
One Green Apple by Eve Bunting is a treat. Sometimes learning about the world means learning about people next door to us. The book is not about apples really at all, instead it’s about Farrah a little Muslim girl who has come to the United States from an unnamed country and her first day at school. The day is spent on a field trip to an orchard , where the children pick apples and make apple cider. I immediately related to this as my first day of work at a school in my new country was trying, although I could speak the language unlike Farrah it was still daunting to be new in unfamiliar territory. The melting pot analogy is turned into a apple cider one as all the children throw their apples in and work together to press it into cider, even Farrah helps.
D is for Dancing Dragon: A China Alphabet by Carol Crane is a in valuable book when teaching about China and Chinese New Year, it is more than a simple alphabet book, going into detail about lanterns, chopsticks, panda bears and so much more. What I love about these books is that younger children can be shown the pictures and given a easy to digest synopsis of the text, while older children can read the whole book. The illustrations by Zong-Zhou Wang will make the most reluctant traveler want to get on a plane to china, they are simply spectacular!
Learn the Alphabet with NorthWest Coast Native Art by Ryan Cranmer (and others) was an amazing gas station find. Yes I said gas station. I ran in for some diet coke and came out with an alphabet book ! This book is amazing, bright beautiful and even though I bought it for my daughter since it’s bright colors and sturdy pages are perfect for a baby, my almost 4 year old son adores it. What I love is when he reads it to her . The Native art is gorgeous and if you are unfamiliar with North West coast art you are in for a treat.
Everybody Cooks Rice by Norah Dooley is a fantastic book! The book follows a sister who is looking for her brother in their San Francisco neighborhood. As she goes from door to door each neighbor invites her in to eat some of their supper. Everybody is having some sort of rice dish even though they are all from different countries. My 6 year old really enjoyed this book and understood the message well , my 3 year old sat through it no problem too. There are so many future lessons about geography, nutrition, and travel packed in this one little book! Awesome find.
Whoever You Are by Mem Fox. I had the absolute pleasure of writing a unit of study for Itty Bitty Bookworm using this book as the base. I often feel sick of the books we use for curriculum after reading it thousands of times, brainstorming lessons and activities. Not this book, every time I read it 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 are 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.
All the Colors of the Earth by Shelia Hamanaka is a simple book that makes a great point. Children come in all colors. The text is very brief but very descriptive comparing children’s coloring to caramel, golden wheat and more. My just 3 year old loved this book and it matched her recent discovery that people do come in all colors and that is something to celebrate.
A South African Night by Rachel Isadora was loved by both my children but for different reasons. The book is very simple and great for kids 4 and under although my 6 year old was interested because my husband and I have traveled to South Africa and visited the places in the book. The book shows glimpses of the urban South Africa as well as the rural Kruger National Park where many of the great species of wild life roam. I think many children see Africa as only the rural wild life filled half of the equation and don’t think of the urban half. This book shows both sides for a more complete , although still simplistic, picture.
Everybody Bonjours! by Leslie Kimmelman was such a find! I adore Paris so my review of this book may be slightly biased. I love it. I love the simplicity of a little girl going to Paris and saying as well as hearing “Bonjour” everywhere she goes. She stops at many of the major tourists attractions and at the end of the story there is a short guide for the sights she sees with her family. Also it should be noted that there are many pages that contain opposites on them so children will enjoy being able to anticipate the story. I love the illustrations by Sarah McMenemy they give a retro feel to a very cute book. My son really liked it especially since he was just learning “Bonjour” the other day and happily helped me say it with each turn of the page.
Colors by Julia Pimsleur Levine is a dynamic lift the flap book in three different languages. What I think is so powerful about this book is that because it has three languages it exposes children naturally to the concept that there are many cultures and languages not just the one or two they may hear around their city or neighborhood. My 3 year old loves the Little Pim Panda and the flaps and tabs kept her interested and engaged while reading the book. Please note I do have a working relationship with Little Pim but was not asked or paid to include this book in the round up. Like all the rest of these books we took it out from the library!
Lala Salama: A Tanzanian Lullaby by Patricia MacLachlan is a calm gentle story that follows a day in the life of a little baby and his mama in Tanzania. The illustrations by Elizabeth Zunon are stunning and I love that it takes readers through a typical day for this little family. My daughter loves babies and this is a great book to talk about the little differences and big similarities between what she did as a baby and what this little baby does.
Mama’s Saris by Pooja Makhijani is a simple yet rich story about a little girl and her desire to dress in her mama’s clothes. I think I would be hard pressed to find a woman who doesn’t remember watching in awe as her mom got dressed for a special event and wanting to dress just like mama. The narrator is Hindu and her mama wears a sari for special occasions and she is stubbornly trying to get her mom to let her wear one for her 7th birthday. The illustrations are beautiful, especially the jewel tones of the various saris. This book would be a great one to read before playing dress up or other pretend play. The story is touching and although it’s too long for toddlers, it’s a great book for preschoolers !
There’s a Dolphin in the Grand Canal by John Bemelmans Marciano is a silly book that enchanted me. It’s all about a little boy stuck helping out in his families cafe in Venice wishing he was somewhere more exciting than Venice. Then something very exciting happens but no one believes him! What I love so much about this book is that it gets to the heart of why people travel , to see things that they have never seen before. If you live in Venice St.Marks Square and The Rialto Bridge are ho hum but if you are from Winnipeg they rock! I also love that there are tourists in this book using all different languages that are explained in an appendix at the back of the book. Very cool find!
The Only One Club by Jane Naliboff . Learning about the world around you can meant an ocean away or right next door. This is a cute book about a little girl named Jennifer who is the only one in her class who celebrates Hanukkah. Soon she finds out that there are lots of “Only Ones” in her class , like the only one with red hair, the only one who wears dresses every day and the only one with a unique last name. I like the message this book has, that we should celebrate our diversity and tell our kids it’s not a bad thing to be unique.
Kokeshi: Yumi by Annelore Parot is overwhelmingly cute. The book is all about a little wooden doll ( Kokeshi ) named Yumi from Japan. Readers follow along with Yumi as she gets ready and goes to a costume party. The book has many dynamic elements in it that will delight your kids. I would not read it with an exuberant toddler though because it’s not a board book and with so many different kinds of lifts, folds and flaps it’s bound to get ripped. The illustrations are amazing and the facts about Japanese culture like kimonos, sushi and fish kites are woven perfectly into the cute story.
Ganesha’s Sweet Tooth by Sanjay Patel and Emily Haynes is a cute adaptation of the Indian legend of how Ganesha came to write the epic Mahabharata. Kids will love this book without ever knowing the historical significance of the original story. My daughter absolutely adored this book because it has two of her favorite things an Elephant ( at least she thought Ganesha was one ) and candy! Ganesha breaks his trunk on a jawbreaker in this story and while having a bit of a tantrum is asked to use his broken tusk to scribe an amazing epic … he agrees as long as he can eat candy while he does it. The story is cute but the illustrations by Sanjay Patel are bright completely suck kids in, it’s no shock that his day job is as an animator for Pixar.
How to Make an Apple Pie and See the World by Marjorie Priceman cost me a total of 15 cents at a thrift store. It is worth so much more than that. This book is a gem! Perfect for older preschoolers who are getting a sense of the world beyond their own home and city, this book takes you on a ride around the world! You follow the little girl to Italy, France , Sri Lanka, England, Jamaica and back to Vermont! As soon as I read this my mind was racing with classroom activities ! I will be posting some soon. I LOVE this book, I just wish I had read it when I was still teaching it would have been so much fun to teach geography with!
The Falling Flowers by Jennifer B. Reed .The story is very sweet, it’s about a grandmother taking her young granddaughter on a surprise outing in Tokyo. It turns out that she is taking her to see the cherry trees in full bloom just as her grandmother had done with her. It’s a nice look at the softer side of Tokyo , a city I know I always imagine as only steal, cement and neon lights!
D Is for Drinking Gourd: An African American Alphabet by Nancy I. Sanders is the type of book that will fit your family for many years as it can be read and multiple levels. This book will teach children of many ages about African American history, the letters are really just a great organizational tool. I love this structure of book because of younger children you can simply go page by page letter by letter simply identifying the illustrations but older children can read the poem on each page or even the in depth text about each page. This book would be a perfect tool for a great history lesson connecting political and social history with contemporary issues the African American community still faces today.
Yum Yum Dim Sum by Amy Wilson Sanger is a book that makes me crave dumplings something fierce but my daughter seems to like the rhymes and pink and red colors throughout. The book explains in a zippy text all about Dim Sum . It’s a board book targeted to babies it’s really useful to use to teach children about foods they may be unfamiliar with. There is even a little appendix with Chinese words for all the items mentioned in the book like tea, rice and tarts.
Somewhere in the World Right Now by Stacey Schuett is brilliant. This book very simply illustrates that while we sleep others in far away places are getting up to eat, heading off to work , and going to school. As the reader turns the pages different locations around the globe are displayed with simple every day events. I love that the text doesn’t tell you where each place is even though the illustrations usually give it away with pictures or sometimes words. Kids will love noting similarities and differences. Be prepared to tell your kids what time it is all over the globe after reading this book.
It’s A Small World by Richard M Sherman and Robert B. Sherman is a bright and colorful book that you won’t read, you will sing. It’s the familiar tune from the favorite Disneyland ride It’s A Small World. The illustrations by Joey Chou bring it to life! The children from all over the globe look similar to the dolls in the ride but bring their own fresh spin on it too. My 3 year old adored the ride when we were in Disneyland in January and really enjoyed this book too. There is so many details to talk about in the illustrations that I found i didn’t really read it so much as turn each page and discuss.
Elizabeti’s School by Stephanie Stuve-Bodeen is a wonderful book for elementary aged kids . The story is about a little girl in Africa who is excited about getting ready to go to school for the first time. What I adore about this book is that it teaches children that school may be seen as a burden to children in wealthy nations it’s a privilege to many in poorer places. Children are lucky to get a chance to go to school and without being preachy at all this book gets that message through to readers. The other thing that it gets through so beautifully is that while school systems are obviously different that family life and people are not all that different even on a far away continent. Both my son and I liked this book.
M Is For Maple: A Canadian Alphabet by Mike Ulmer. This book will make you feel proud to be from Canada if you are Canadian and teach you something about your neighbour ( We spell it with a u in Canada ) if you aren’t . It will also teach your children things about the country they live in and why we feel pride when we hear names like Terry Fox, Anne with an E and Gretzky! I love this book and have since I first read it during teacher’s college in Thunder Bay, if you can be happy about being in Canada during a very cold Thunder Bay winter you can be happy about it anywhere.
ABeCedarios: Mexican Folk Art ABCs in English and Spanish by Cynthia Weill and K.B.Basseches , wood sculptures by Moises and Armando Jimenez. This is a simple but amazing book. The text is simply labels in both English and Spanish for the bright and wonderful photographs of the matching sculptures. I loved that for X the sculpture is of a mythical animal and the book asks the reader to make up a name beginning with X, very clever!
All the Way to America by Dan Yaccarino is a wonderful story about immigration and family tradition. My kids both liked the story of the Yaccariono family and how they came to settle in America from Italy. Throughout the story there is one little shovel that gets used for all different things generation after generation. It’s a great symbol for how family roots can stay strong even if how we express them changes. I liked being able to compare it to my own immigration to the United States and how different it was for me in 2003 vs the author’s great grandfather over a hundred years earlier. Good book to talk about how people came to the United States and why people move from country to country.
Another whole series I love but simply did not have time to review each one ( they are all long but wonderful books ) are the This is … by Miroslav Sasek . You can read more about them here.This post contains affiliate links
Reading with my children is probably my absolute favorite thing to do but when I can read books from my own childhood with them it’s even better. Most of these 27 vintage children’s books are favorites from my childhood but are also loved by my children. There is something extra special about reading books you loved as a child with your own children. Do you have a favorite that I didn’t list ? Add it in the comments so we can keep this list growing.
Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs by Judi and Ron Barrett has long been a favorite. This book will take you to another dimension in the way that is usually reserved for longer books or movies. In just a few pages you will dive into the land of Chewandswallow and it’s magical weather. See Chewandswallow is a place where the food falls from the sky. Instead of rain or snow they get hot dogs and a drizzle of soda, or peas and carrots! Things started going wrong in Chewandswallow though and the weather went nuts! I love asking children what food they wished fell from the sky and why after reading this book.
Madeline by Ludwig Bemelmans was a childhood favorite and I remember being a little girl and thinking I want to be just like Madeline because she was so brave. She wasn’t afraid of anything and what always struck me was how proud she was of her scar. Something that little girls are told by society to hide because it makes us less than perfect physically yet Madeline hikes up her nightgown and shows it off. Of my childhood heroines Madeline was right up there with Anne Shirley, Annie and Brigitta from Sound of Music. As a teacher and parent I adore Bemelmans’ rhymes which at times are a stretch but in a way that gets kids thinking about what does and doesn’t rhyme.
The Berenstain Bears’ Moving Day by Stan and Jan Berenstain has been on my bookshelf as long as I have been able to read . I love this book and maybe it’s nostalgia or maybe it’s because I remember connecting with Brother Bear as he stepped into the unknown. This is a great book, and is especially powerful for children who are familiar with the characters. If a character they know has to move too, the unknown isn’t so scary. Don’t overlook this book just because it’s part of a character franchise.
The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle . I remembering being amazed that the caterpillar turned into that huge colorful butterfly! In university while studying elementary education I chose this book as the literary inspiration for a cross curricular unit study for grade 1. I made math lessons with fruit, science lessons about observing insects and the butterfly life cycle and health lessons about smart food choices. Then teaching preschool I used this awesome book to teach the days of the week, basic counting and more. When I was pregnant I chose this book along with a few other favorites to be my son’s nursery theme. Now that my daughter is 3 we often pull down the Very Hungry Caterpillar felt board and play with it as we read the story just like I did with her brother. To me this book is a given, and for every stage of my life, student, student teacher, teacher, mother it has come along for the ride!
Babar and Father Christmas by Jean De Brunhoff was one of my very favorite Christmas stories as a child. As an adult I have had some great belly laughs at some of it’s writing .Babar books in general beg to be pre read , just trust me. In this book Babar goes looking for Father Christmas because he wants to ask him to visit Elephant country. He searches all over Paris and finally ends up in the North Pole and finds after much effort Father Christmas. I love the details in this book, as a child I would lay looking at the pictures of Santa’s workshop and imagine what visiting it would be like. As an adult I appreciate the smallest details like how Father Christmas’s flying machine ( not a sled) has P.N #1 on it , meaning of course Pere Noel #1.
Babar and Zephir by Jean De Brunhoff was my favorite of all the Babar books, most of which I have tracked down and bought on ebay. What I loved about this book was we got to see where Zephir came from, and go see the fantastic world hanging houses in Monkeyville. Babar books are always interesting to read again as an adult and this one is no exception. Zephir come to the rescue when a mermaid princess is taken hostage. Odd yes, but it enthralled me as a child and when I read it to my own kids are fascinated by it as well.
Strega Nona by Tomie dePaola delighted me as a child and still does. I love the author’s interpretation of the familiar magic pot folktale . Strega Nona’s magic pasta pot is very powerful and when a villager thinks he can control it hilarity ensues.
Corduroy by Don Freeman was a childhood favorite of mine and it hasn’t lost any of it’s shine over the years. The story is about a lonely bear at a department store who despite being a little disheveled finds a forever home with a kind little girl who needs him as much as he needs her. There are so many levels to this book, as a child I remember being awed by the thought of toys coming alive in stores when the doors are locked and the shoppers leave. As an adult I see this as a touching adoption story . My son loves the escalators Corduroy travels on in the store ! This is another book that has lasting power and can be read for years in your home.
Babies (So Tall Board Books) by Gyo Fujikawa was an especially desired book to me when I was little because it belonged to my older sister. The books is really very simple and it’s relaly just about what babies do all day. Trust me though it will be a hit with toddlers.
Harold and the Purple Crayon by Crockett Johnson is the classic story of Harold who draws his own world and goes on great adventures only to realize what he wants to draw most is a home to come back to. This is a story about imagination, problem solving and one really cool and apparently unbreakable crayon. My kids love it and reading it to them I am taken back to my own childhood and how it inspired me to create my own imaginary worlds.
The Duchess Bakes a Cake by Virginia Kahl. I had to search this book out, I had forgotten the title and author all I remembered was that there was a child named Gunhilde! Thank goodness for Google! The story is very sweet with the Duchess giving her staff the day off because she wants to bake a cake for her family. Unfortunately things go awry and the cake ends up huge with the Duchess stuck on top of it high in the air! Luckily the duchess finds a solution and things are fixed in the end. I loved two things about this book as a child, the idea of everyone eating a giant cake to save the Duchess and that the Duchess was taller then the Duke, I remember thinking that was funny and I didn’t know that a wife could be taller than her husband. That’s the beauty of books, even picture books open children up to new experiences.
Joe Kaufman’s Book About Busy People and How They Do Their Work by Joe Kaufman was such a big part of my childhood that I was nervous sharing it with my son, worried he’d reject it. He gobbled it up even though it is terribly out of date ( I think it was when I read it too!). The book is all about different jobs and all the responsibilities of them. My favorite was Trudy Teacher and like my son who’s favorite was Fred Fireman I skipped Carlos the Clown. Even as outdated as it is, it’s useful for learning about community helpers and I didn’t notice the diversity of the jobs , and people in the book as a child but appreciate it as a parent.
Leo the Late Bloomer by Robert Kraus . This book it’s a simple story about Leo who isn’t doing what all the other animals his age are doing. His dad is more than a little anxious but Leo blooms in his own good time. I loved this book as a child . As a youngest child I always felt behind the curve always having to play catch up so I could relate to Leo. As an adult I think this book is more for parents and is a great reminder to chill out and let our kids bloom in their own time and in their own way.
The Story of Ferdinand by Munro Leaf is a classic tale about doing your own thing and not letting any amount of pressure change you. I don’t ever remember reading this book as a child but I know many parents who do. Ferdinand is a bull but just because he is doesn’t mean he wants to fight in the bull ring. I love the message this book has about being who you are no matter what environment you are in . Kids love this book because it’s funny , the text is just the right length and the illustrations are so expressive.
Blueberries for Sal by Robert McCloskey is a true classic, written in 1948 it’s a simple tale about a little girl and her mom collecting blueberries to can. While mama pics them , Sal eats them and wanders off but they aren’t the only mama and baby out gathering blueberries. This book is chill and sweet and the black and white illustrations make the readers feel like they are on the top of the mountain gathering blueberries too.
Tikki Tikki Tembo by Arlene Mosel is a classic story that I remember enjoying as a child. It tells the story of why Chinese parents give their children short names. This book is wordier than a lot of the ones I try with my son, but it has become one of his absolute favorites. When given a choice, he ALWAYS chooses to read this one. ( Review by Katy Monnot )
The Seasons in Fern Hollow by John Patience. This book is a cute look at the world of Fern Hollow where there is a large cast of animal characters who live in a small idyllic English village. The book itself is sweet, going through village life one season at a time but my favorite thing about this book and the others by the same author was the map of the village at the start and end of each book in the series. I would lay in bed staring at the map, trying to find different ways to get from one character’s house to another. This book inspired my imagination.
Curious George Goes to the Hospital by Margaret and H.A. Rey . I adored this book as a child and even though hospitals have changed a lot since this book was written the story still rings true. I remember reading this book before having to go to the hospital as a child and finding comfort in it. It’s a great book to read when you need to calm fears before a hospital stay. I’m not it’s book only fan in our house in fact it’s one of my three year old daughter’s favorite books right now .
Richard Scarry’s Best Word Book Ever (Golden Bestsellers Series)is on a shelf in our playroom ( see if you can find it in this post ) , well the French edition that I flipped through as a young girl in Canada growing up. I loved the same things about it back then that my kids do today, the incredibly detailed pictures that offer an unparalleled launching pad for a young imagination.
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 . 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.
Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak probably doesn’t need an introduction but 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 he gets to control and freedom from rules. Ultimately though Max’s heart pulls him back home where he is loved best of all, even when he’s wild. I read this to my son all the time. Even though he can read the words effortlessly now he always asks me to read it because it’s just not right any other way.
Green Eggs and Ham by Dr. Seuss . All of Dr. Seuss’s books are worthy of praise, and children really do love the melodic and brilliant rhymes. I love that often you can’t quite tell if a character is a woman or a man, and they have no obvious race which makes them universal and inclusive. I love “Green Eggs and Ham” because of it’s limited wording , there are only 50 words used in the whole book, and easy rhymes make it a great choice for learning about rhyming. Also the words used are so simple that it’s a fabulous book for emergent readers.
The Giving Tree by Shel Silverstein. This book makes me incredibly sad. I don’t like how horrid the boy is to the tree, how spineless the tree is and I never saw it as a lesson in giving like so many do but a lesson in taking . I read it to my son and we talked, we had a great talk about taking advantage of those who love us, and how it hurts everyone. Yes I don’t like this book but it is useful and it can be a great tool for teaching children about what makes a bad friend. I have never hidden that I don’t like this book because it’s so sad but that as lesson it’s worth the sad story.
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 made my son get “the gulpy feeling” which is our expression for tearing up. It’s a powerful story not to be missed.
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.
The Monster at the End of This Book by Jon Stone will be instantly recognizable to many of you. We didn’t grow up with Elmo ( well maybe some of you young whipper snappers did) we had Grover. Loveable blue monster and narrator of this story. This book is completely interactive in that Grover is speaking directly to the reader and asking them not to turn the pages. It put me in fits of giggles as a child but as a mom I love the reminder to never judge a book by it’s cover .
Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day by Judith Viorst was another childhood favorite that I have enjoyed sharing with my own son. 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! The magic of this book is that the end isn’t happy , Alexander goes to bed still mad and that’s okay, sometimes days are bad.
Which book did I miss? Add your favorites that I didn’t mention in the comments .This post contains affiliate links.
The 4th of July will be here in a blink of an eye and before you start making those red ,white .and blue desserts check out some of these great patriotic books for kids. Use fun events and holidays like the 4th of July to teach kids more about their country and it’s history. Don’t worry if you don’t get a chance to find these books before the 4th because kids love to relate events in their lives to books and reading them after will be great for that. Do you have favorite patriotic picture books for 4th of July that we skipped? Please add it’s title and why you love it in the comments so this list can keep growing .
America the Beautiful by Katharine Lee Bates and illustrated by Chris Gall is a stunning book. The text will be familiar to you as it’s the original poem that most of us know as the song America The Beautiful. The illustrator is a descendent of the writer and pays homage to his family legacy with this beautiful book. Each page illustrates the lyrics perfectly while showcasing different parts of the country, it’s history and simple nostalgia. My son liked it, and particularly loved the page with 9-11 firefighters raising the flag , which brought tears to my eyes. At the end of the book there are short blurbs about each illustration for further information as well.
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 is that 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.
Duck for President by Doreen Cronin is probably the first book most teachers will mention when you ask for a picture book about elections. It’s a great book about a duck who overthrows his farmer and ends up moving up in politics until he is elected President. With each step on the political ladder Duck realizes that he doesn’t like the job and wants something better only to discover that with each move up the workload increases too. I love that that teaches readers that being a leader isn’t about being the bossy one but rather having the most responsibility . My son got that immediately and it opened a good dialog about what he thought being President really is like.I also love the book because there is a good dose of humor that only the adults will appreciate.
Grace for President by Kelly DiPucchio is fantastic. The very best part of this book is on the first page when the main character a little girl named Grace exclaims ” Where are the girls?” in response to her teacher hanging up a poster of all the presidents. If I wasn’t in a tent in the backyard while reading this with my son I would have stood up and given Grace a standing ovation. I can’t wait to read this to my daughter in a few years. I love how shocked the character is and I was really happy that my son was surprised that there have been no female presidents as well. Grace decides to run for president in the mock election for her grade at school and be the change. My love for this book doesn’t end with the wonderful example of basic feminism because next up the author tackles something oh so tricky; The Electoral College. The author does a great job explaining what can be a very confusing system used for American presidential elections and I bet more than a few parents reading this to their kids will get something out of it too. The story of Grace and her own campaign is sweet as well but the brilliance of this story are the complex lessons broken down so well for a young audience.
ABC USA by Martin Jarrie is another beautiful alphabet book! Like most alphabet books it devotes a page to each letter with vibrant illustrations . Not everything in this book is by any means unique to the United States but most are. I specifically appreciated the I for Immigrants page, both from a historical and personal perspective. There are a lot of learning opportunities presented as well for kids of all ages like U for Underground Railroad and V for Valley Forge so don’t dismiss this as a book only for young kids learning their ABCs.
Celebrate the 50 States! by Loreen Leedy is not a story book about the 50 states but really an illustrated short form non fiction book about each and every state. Each page features two states with a few historical facts, a basic map of the state and fun facts even parents probably don’t know! I love books like this and wasn’t surprised when my husband picked it up , leafed through it and said ” Hey this is a pretty cool book.” It is. It is far too detailed to hold a young preschooler’s attention but it a great reference book even for kids as young as 3, just don’t try to read the whole thing in one sitting . Older kids will like the trivia question posed for each state and checking their answers at the back of the book.
Wow! America! by Robert Neubecker was an instant hit with my son. Every time I read it I found something new and interesting . Readers follow along as a baby and his older sister who is running after him travel all around the country seeing wonderful things that make us all go “Wow!” Each page has a short title like “Wow Statue” for The Statue of Liberty , then a little more text to explain what the reader is looking at. The illustrations are detailed and we’ve played eye spy with this book more than a few times. This is a wonderful book and the map on the inside cover has been fun to play with as well, we like to find where various far off friends and family live. Go check this book out for sure.
America: My Land, Your Land, Our Land by W.Nikola-Lisa is a really interesting concept for a book. The book showcases how The United States is made up of drastic opposites. Each page is devoted to two opposing features such as bright and dark, yours and mine, old and young. Then the illustrations reflect these opposites. What makes it so interesting is that there isn’t one illustrator , their are 14! Each showcasing their view of one of these opposites. My son enjoyed this book because he is all about separating and classifying things right now and the text was short and illustrations beautiful. Parents will probably enjoy it on a different level because many of the illustrations hold deeper meanings if you have some more mature knowledge about historical facts.
What Presidents Are Made Of by Hanoch Piven is a simple book that brings together a collection of presidential anecdotes that will probably make you laugh more than your kids but trust me they’ll still enjoy it. It humanizes iconic figures we know and makes readers curious to learn even more about these great men. The collage style illustrations are beautiful and quite funny as well.
How to Make a Cherry Pie and See the U.S.A by Marjorie Priceman didn’t disappoint one bit. I was worried after falling in love with How To Bake An Apple Pie and See The World that this couldn’t live up to my expectations. It did! This time she wasn’t looking for ingredients for the pie, but rather materials for her tools. She gathered wood in Washington for her rolling pin, cotton in Louisiana for pot holders granite in New Hampshire for her pastry slab and more. What I wasn’t expecting of this book and loved was how she gathered natural resources and then processed them to make what she needed. I think this is a wonderful lesson about manufacturing and could be used for a launchpad for learning about so much more. Another gem I will be adding to my must buy list.
The National Anthem (True Books, American Symbols) by Patrica Ryin Quiri is a great book for school age children ( 5-10) to learn about how the American flag and anthem came about. I learned a lot from this book and I have a minor in American History! It talks about the evolution from a poem to an anthem, with easy text, great photos and illustrations. I particularly liked seeing the author’s original handwritten poem. It creates a more personal connection to the song for readers and makes it even more special.
Presidents’ Day by Anne Rockwell is a perfect introduction to presidents, some of their major accomplishments and some major points in American history. The story follows a class putting on a play and we learn about some of the most significant presidents as the children do. Even if President’s Day is months away you can use this book while learning about money , linking the various presidents on coins and bills, or for Independence day too! Very cute and age appropriate for older preschoolers.
A is for America by Devin Scillian is a perfect mix of national pride and real facts. As a Canadian I always feel strange critiquing works like this, I don’t want to sound too critical and that won’t be the case with this wonderful book. There are plenty of fantastic reasons to celebrate America and this book lays them on the table from A to Z !
Madam President by Lane Smith is a sweet story about a little girl who equates her life and daily routine with that of the President. My favorite part of the book was when it’s explained that a president must choose a cabinet and her’s is comprised of some real positions like Secretary of State and Secretary of Defense and some not like Secretary of Fantasy and Secretary of Pizza. While reading it with my son I had him guess real or not. The book also introduced my 5 year old to the word veto which was fun for about 2 minutes. He’s since learned in our family I am the one with veto power. I really like this book because it breaks down what the President does into the daily life of a child and the best way to get kids interested in something is to make them relate to it.
Mr. President Goes to School by Rick Walton is such a cute book that we really enjoyed. The book is not so much about school as it is about how complicated adult problems can get and you can imagine how big they get for the President of The United States. First of all I have to say I loved that when we started reading it my son said ” The President should be African American .” I love that my son has no idea that there was a time when people didn’t think that could or should happen. Ok proud moment aside the story follows Mr. President as he escapes his duties trying to make peace between to Eastern European leaders and heads back to his old kindergarten class to remember what it’s all about. Of course he ends up going back and using all the things he learned in kindergarten to make peace between the two leaders , I mean who can start a war with someone they’ve done the hokey pokey with? I like the message and the book can be a great tool to show kids how lucky they are they get to go to kindergarten , even the President wishes he could go back!
How to Bake an American Pie by Karma Wilson is sentimental, sweet and probably should be reviewed by an American. The reason I say that is that it’s written to pull at your heart strings, make you feel pride in your country and I am sure it succeeds when the reader is American. But the same way I wouldn’t expect an American to get choked up singing “O Canada” the way I do , I just don’t get the full effect. Strictly as a book this was a little too figurative for my son although he loved the illustrations of the dog and cat baking the pie and kept turning back to the page with rainbows. Older kids will recognize some of the text that is taken from America the Beautiful and will understand the figurative language, although may be put off by the illustrations that seem more geared towards little ones. I would love to hear from any Americans who have read this book to get your take!
Apple Pie Fourth of July by Janet S. Wong is an awesome book. I am always awed by authors who can tackle complicated “adult” issues in the pages of a children’s book successfully. In this case the issue is 1st generation identity and immigration, at least that’s my take. The little girl in this book is sulking around her parent’s store on the 4th of July. They are busy making Chinese food for customers she is sure won’t come, who would want Chinese food on such an American holiday is her rational. Of course there are layers about her connection to her ancestral culture and her own national pride. As a proud owner of a green card and a Canadian passport I relate to this story, sure the differences are as deep or as obvious to an outsider but unlike the previous book when this book ended with fireworks I got tingles of pride for my adopted country. Fantastic book- and my son liked it too.
Hats off for the Fourth of July by Harriet Ziefert is a wonderful book for children who are just starting to understand what this holiday is all about. The book follows a parade with hints of what is next to come along, making the reader feel the same feelings real parade goer does as they stand on their tipy toes to see what is on it’s way. My son really enjoyed the book because it was packed with marching bands, motorcycles and more.This post contains affiliate links
Math can go anywhere when you pack one of these counting books along with you. What a great way to work on numbers and reading at the same time. I chose these books because they aren’t just generic counting books, they are fantastic books that also have counting in them. Did I skip your favorite? Tell me about it in comments so we can keep building this list together! The book titles are liked to Amazon with affiliate links.
Anno’s Counting Book by Mitsumasa Anno almost didn’t make it into my library bag. I am so glad it did. This is a wonderful book full of possibilities. There is no text just simple aerial illustrations of a field as it evolves one number at a time. The field fills up quickly and it can be tricky to classify the pictures on each page to match it with the number displayed but once you do , each page is a lesson!
Big Fat Hen by Keith Baker is a simple counting book with minimal text. What it lacks in words it delivers in illustrations. The rich colors of the hens, the golden hay and the yellow chicks were all expertly executed. We read the board book version of this book and as we turned each page the illustrations wowed us. The text that is included is rhyming and pleasant but the illustrations steal the show.
Quack and Count by Keith Baker is even better than Big Fat Hen. This book is awesome for multi-age groups because although the text is simple there are two levels of math on each page. Simple duck counting as well as addition to arrive at the same number. I squealed when I read this to my son and daughter , immediately realizing how perfect a book this was for us! Your kids will love the illustrations too.
Granny Went to Market by Stella Blackstone is a book I got to know very well when writing lessons for Itty Bitty Bookworm preschool curriculum using it. This a a really fantastic book that is filled with language arts, geography and math lessons. Granny is a traveler and everywhere she goes she picks up a number of souvenirs. Not only are a number of countries like Switzerland, Mexico and Peru visited, but the souvenirs she buys relate to the country’s culture and offer even more learning opportunities for interested kids. The rhyming text will enchant even the youngest world traveler , this is a must for any jet setting family!
Doggies by Sandra Boynton has been one of my daughter’s favorite books for ages. If you aren’t familiar with it, it’s a simple counting book about dogs, their different barks and one pesky cat. Toddlers love barking along with it so it’s a great book for places where they don’t have to be shushed, it’s not a great one for quiet only places like a church service.
Goodnight Moon 123 by Margaret Wise Brown uses the familiar illustrations from the classic book by Margaret Wise Brown and turns it into a counting book. The page with 100 stars really has 100 stars on it, count and see!
Dinner at the Panda Palace by Stephanie Calmenson is a great book. I grabbed it only because of the title but found a gem. My son and I both loved it and had a blast reading it. The story is about a restaurant and the people , or rather animals that come into the restaurant in ever enlarging groups. The text is rhyming and well written. My son loved counting each group that came in figuring out after a few times that each group had one more animal than the previous group. It was a great opportunity to practice one to one correspondence as he counted on each page. There was also a great message about there always being room for one more when all the chairs were taken and a mouse came knocking wondering if he could eat too!
1, 2, 3 to the Zoo by Eric Carle is fun counting book perfect for toddlers. Actually as I type this my toddler is reading it. There are no words, just pictures and numbers and that makes it accessible for toddlers who are just learning both numbers and animals. Parents can read it slowly counting and naming the animals while making the animal sounds, or more quickly just counting!
by Emma Chichester Clark is a cute little book about a Grandma and granddaughter counting things in their every day. The counting is simple and easy to follow along with but what makes this book standout for me is how sweet the bond between the generations are. My son loves this book because he calls his paternal grandma Mimi . When we read it we make the Grandma in the book Mimi and the little monkey becomes my son. I like that we are counting while also celebrating a special bond in my son’s life.
Eggs and Legs: Counting by Twos by Michael Dahl is a cute book with silly illustrations and a fun concept to teach counting by twos. The book counts from 0-20 by 2s but each page has multiple depictions of each number including dots to count and the number in the text. This was super useful to show my son as we counted by 2s that we weren’t skipping the numbers, just grouping them to count faster. Fun and useful book.
On the Launch Pad: A Counting Book About Rockets by Michael Dahl was a great find, my son loved counting down from 12-1 with the bright illustrations , simple text and hidden numbers on each page. Something that seems simple but was really awesome was that each page had the number written as a word, shown as a digit and as dots to count. You can take the time to count each dot, read the word or simply recognize the digit!
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 who is 3 eats it up! He loves calling out the number and instrument as I read the rhyming text.
Fish Eyes: A Book You Can Count On by Lois Elhert is a classroom favorite in every school I have ever been in. The colors are so bright and the eye cut outs that give readers a sneak peak at what colors are coming next are fascinating for babies and kids alike. I have used this book for various themes like under the sea, shapes and of course counting.
One Little Chicken: A Counting Book by David Elliot was a great library find. You count chickens as they dance all different styles, my favorite being the chickens who dance the hula ! The rhyming text is really fun and the pictures will make you giggle, I mean there are chickens in leotards doing ballet! Totally tickled my funny bone. The best part though is that it gets the reader involved after counting to ten, the chickens turn the tables stare at the reader and implore them to dance! One of my new favorite counting books.
One White Wishing Stone by Doris K. Gayzagian is a beautiful book. Visually it reminds me of an impressionist painting, the soft beach colors used by illustrator Kristina Swarner are calming and pretty. This is more than just a counting book, there is a story of a little girl at the beach,what she finds and how she plans to use them when she takes them home. It’s so beautifully done that it almost makes me forget how much I hate finding sand in my car after a trip to the beach.
My Little Sister Ate One Hare by Bill Grossman is a funny counting book that counts all the disgusting things the narrator’s sister ate from 1-10 . The rhyming text builds and repeats as she eats and eats! My son was thoroughly entertained.
Ten Little Rabbitsby Virginia Grossman is a really beautiful and cozy counting book. The reader follows Native American rabbits from one who is traveling on the plain to 10 all asleep in their tee pees . My son loved the illustrations by Sylvia Long and after reading it wanted to play hide and seek just like the rabbits in the book.
1, 2, Buckle My Shoe by Anna Grossnickle Hines is a wonderful first counting book, and a favorite of my daughter. The text is the simple rhyme and the pictures are photos of quilted numbers and buttons. The buttons correspond to the numbers and are so bright that they practically beg a child to touch and count them. My daughter who is 14 months loves to push the buttons, trace the numbers and laughs at the hen. Very sweet book.
Daddy Hugs by Karen Katz is a cute little counting book for toddlers. I gave it to my husband in 2007 for his first father’s day to read with my son and my son hated it. However in the years since it’s become a favorite and nothing beats a board book for when toddlers get to that destructo stage. Edited for 2013: My daughter has always loved this book!
1+1=5: and Other Unlikely Additions by David LaRochelle was sent to me by the publisher a few years ago. The book as you might guess by the title is not about adding the obvious but rather the less obvious numbers in an illustration. Do not read this book with your child until they understand addition and counting. When they have those skills down this book is genius! I say that because it forces them to look at all different numbers of things to figure out what the author is counting. Readers see the equation first and the objects they are counting are usually hidden so you will have to turn the page to figure it out. Flip the page and it’s more obvious , for example 1+1 = 100 and the picture includes a pumpkin and watermelon. Flip the page and you see they are cut open with many seeds in full view. It’s tricky but if you have a child interested in math or mysteries grab it and have a look.
Counting Wildflowers by Bruce McMillan is a simple book but it stands out for me because it is interactive with 20 circles to touch on every page that fill up as you count flowers on each page. The reader can count the blooms, and then count again with the circles , all the way up to 20. When you are trying to reinforce a skill like counting the use of repetition is really helpful. Simple but great.
Museum 123 by The Metropolitan Museum Of Art is another simple but beautiful counting book. What I love about this book is that the number is not shown on the same page as the objects the child is being asked to count. Instead a simple question of how many is followed by a painting with the objects, and the next page has a large number. My son loved counting then flipping the page exclaiming ” I knew it , I said that number I was right!” My only complaint is that it only went to 10!
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 introduced musical instruments in 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 back with him on the way home from the bookstore because he couldn’t wait to read it .
Ten on the Sled by Kim Norman is a really fun and educational book. The book is a new spin on the old song ” Ten in A Bed” but instead of squeezing onto a bed these cold weather animals pile on and off the sled one at a time. What is wonderful from an educational sense is not just the obvious counting element but as each animal exists the sled the verb used for how they exit begins with the same letter as the animal does. This was fantastic for my son who wanted to sound every animal and verb out. Add a fun rhyming sing song text and this is a great read.
One Hungry Monster by Susan Heyboer O’Keefe is a fun counting book great for all ages of kids. My son will sit for the first 5-6 pages, even though the whole book is too long for him now at two and a half years old. The book is a counting book and kids who are learning their numbers love these sorts of books, it also has a small lesson about manners since the monsters have terrible manners.
Construction Countdown by K.C Olson is a counting book that uses backhoes, dump trucks and cement mixers among other things to count. Before I even closed the book my son was signing for more. I read it 4 times since getting it out of the library today. A huge hit here! <– That was written in 2008 and now over 2 years later my son still likes this book and has grown with it, now doing the counting all by himself.
One Duck Stuck by Phyllis Root looks like an everyday book , but inside you will find a brilliantly repetitive storyline, that promotes teamwork, and mathematical skills! See a duck gets stuck in the muck and while others are eager to help the duck isn’t unstuck until they all work together. My class was nuts about this book a few years ago and my son has greatly enjoyed it since infancy. Don’t pass this book up.
Molly’s Monsters by Teddy Slater is a counting book in monster’s clothes. The book is about a little girl named Molly who is just trying to sleep when her room is flooded with monsters. They come in progressively larger groups and my son liked counting to make sure the text was correct. My favorite part was that the first monster to arrive and the last to leave , never does leave and instead snuggles into bed with Molly. I also like that to get these pesky visitors to leave she turns on the light and makes a scary face at them. Clever.
One, Two, Three by Tom Slaughter is super simple, bold, bright, and a great counting book! This isn’t a complex book but it is one that encourages counting with it’s brilliant illustrations. I would happily recommend this book to families with babies through preschoolers , my 3 year old loved it and partly because he read all the pictures and numbers himself!
Ten Terrible Dinosaurs by Paul Stickland is a great counting book for kids with bright and colorful dinosaurs. Both my kids liked this book so it appeals to toddlers and preschoolers alike. My favorite part is the surprise ending that always produces giggles!
Mouse Count by Ellen Stoll Walsh is another gem from this author illustrator. In this book the mice outsmart a hungry snake and save themselves from his belly. In the meantime the reader counts along as the mice are caught and put in a jar , then again when they escape. The simple illustrations are so effective and my son loved this book.
This week was aquarium week for us. My son’s kindergarten class visited the Seattle Aquarium on Wednesday and yesterday my parents and I took my daughter to our little local one. It is only fitting for us to showcase some of the many great picture books about sea animals today. Do you have a favorite that didn’t make the list ? Share in comments!
Commotion in the Ocean by Giles Andreae is a happy book full of rhymes about all sorts of sea creatures, including jelly fish. Each page has rhyming text that goes along with the animal. The book is cute and the illustrations are bright and bold. My son enjoyed it pointing out the animals. That said it’s not a must buy, more like a great to have on hand when you are specifically learning about the subject.
Secret Seahorse by Stella Blackstone is a fascinating and beautiful board book. The story follows a little seahorse that hides on each page as it makes it’s way along the ocean back to it’s family. The illustrations are felt, fabric, sequins and other fun and very beautiful hand stitched creations. I am never ready for the next page because the present one has so much to look and marvel at. Kids like finding the seahorse on each page too! My son and I re read this tonight to my daughter and she liked it but he was still loving it, which is pretty impressive for a board book. It’s just so pretty!
A House for Hermit Crab by Eric Carle is a book I have owned for many years. It offers so many learning opportunities for young readers and doesn’t lose any of the entertainment in trying too hard to teach. The hermit crab feels drab and each month he asks different sea creatures to help decorate his shell . As the shell is getting more and more beautiful it’s also getting more and more snug. The book teaches about sea creatures, months of the year and moving. More than moving it teaches about change . Change is difficult for all of us but a little trickier for most preschoolers which makes this book so valuable.
Mister Seahorse by Eric Carle is a story about the most involved fathers in the sea. Mister seahorse isn’t the only fish that takes care of his eggs until they hatch , in the book we meet other dads that do too. I didn’t realize how many people don’t like this book until I read some reviews on amazon when ordering the book a few months ago. Many parents are off put by the father fish who announces he is “babysitting” his own baby fish. It never really bugged me even though when a parent says that in real life it irks me. All the positive daddy fish outweigh that one comment for me.
Hooray for Fish! by Lucy Cousins gets are huge “Hooray” from our house. I thought my son would think this book was a little young for him. He’s started saying board books are for babies, and he’s a big boy and even though this isn’t a board book it’s simple, big and bright like one. Nope, he loved it. Little Fish takes the readers on a tour of all the different kinds of fish , the bright fun illustrations are so interesting to look at , and choose your favorite fish on each page. The rhymes are fun and when we finished reading my son immediately asked to read it again! Edited for 2011 – now that he is almost 5 he flatly refused to read this with me but his sister who is 14 months liked it!
Fish Eyes: A Book You Can Count On by Lois Elhert is a classroom favorite in every school I have ever been in. The colors are so bright and the eye cut outs that give readers a sneak peak at what colors are coming next is fascinating for babies and kids alike. I have used this book for various themes like under the sea, shapes and of course counting.
Ordinary Amos and the Amazing Fish by Eugenie and Henry Fernandes is a funny book that forces readers to look at pet fish in a whole new light. Amos gets caught by a family of fish and they keep them as a pet. This book was a favorite of all my classrooms, children love to imagine other worlds and one where they are the pet is both a little scary and really silly too! I love the message of empathy, and kids grasp it. They see that Amos once caught is sad and depressed in his bowl and that it’s no fun being caged up.
O Is for Orca: An Alphabet Book by Andrea Helman is a book about the nature of the North West packaged in an alphabet book. Each page is dedicated to one large photo and a animal, plant or other part of North West nature. My son was reluctant at first wanting to read a Star Wars chapter book but only a page or two in he was engaged. Many of the letters represent sea animals like sea stars, urchins and of course orcas. There are a lot of facts in this book and if I were reading it to my toddler I’d skip the paragraphs and go through the alphabet and each photo only. That is what I love about books like this you can adapt them so easily to your audience.
Barry the Fish with Fingers by Sue Hendra is a goofy fun book that had me wrapped around it’s fingers with the title, I mean a fish named Barry? And he has fingers?! I love it. Thankfully my judgment was smack dab on because the inside of the book was as funny as the cover. Barry isn’t just a fish with fingers he is a hero when his fingers save the day. The illustrations are so fun, the text is zippy and both my kids ( 4 and 10 months) loved it from start to finish.
Fish Is Fish by Leo Lionni is a cute book that not only talks about friendship but it also explains the transformation of a tadpole into a frog in an entertaining way . I have used this book in classrooms while doing animal life cycles and kids always love how the fish in the book imagines people as fish with legs. The story of friendship between the little tadpole and minnow can’t be ignored either, it’s a great message about change and the way true friendships can withstand change.
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 wonderful things there are to see and experience in the ocean. When he comes across a school of fish just like his former one hiding afraid of the big fish he knows he can’t let them miss out on all the wonders of the ocean. He rallies them to work as a team and face the big fish head on. This is a great book for teaching children about the power of working as a group to combat challenges as well as conquering fears.
Way Down Deep in the Deep Blue Sea by Jan Peck is about a little boy swimming in the “deep” looking for treasure. Along the way he encounters different sea animals. The cute kicker is that all along the little boy is really in his bath tub and the animals are just toys. I liked the twist and so did my son who then requested a laundry basket to play bath, funny how he didn’t actually want a bath… a mom can dream! Edited for 2011 – my son re discovered this book as we were setting up the playroom in our new house. It’s still a hit with him after 2 years.
Fish School by Nancy Poydar is a really funny book that also manages to teach the reader a lot about fish.The story is about Charlie who gets Wishy a goldfish for his birthday and then sets off to teach him all sorts of things. When his class takes a field trip to the aquarium guess who Charlie pops into a ziploc and into his backpack. My son loved the silliness of this book as well as the information that is shared as the class progresses through the aquarium. Lots of giggles and learning with this cute story.
Baby Beluga by Raffi is a classic children’s song cleverly illustrated into a beautiful book. I grew up on Raffi in Canada and am still shocked when moms don’t know who he is, if he is new to you go to your library and check out one of his cds. When my son was a toddler he loved this book and all the sea creatures inside. I must say that I am unable to read this without singing the song. It might be a good thing to read it before listening to the song .
Little Shark by Anne Rockwell is a great non fiction book from one of our favorite authors. Readers follow a shark from birth until it’s full grown in this book filled with fascinating shark facts. I like that it reads like a story because it sucks the reader in instead of just spouting off cold facts about these cool and scary ( to me) animals. I loved that my son was rather shocked that sharks don’t stay with their moms or their many siblings, and are instead solitary. I loved how it explained a little bit about the food chain in the ocean and how we get oxygen from air but fish get it from the water. Add this one to your shelf.
Trout, Trout, Trout!: A Fish Chant by April Pulley Sayre is not a story but a chanting book. It lists a number of fish found in the United States in a rhyming text. Along with Trip Park’s funny illustrations the book works although my son didn’t ask to read it again after our initial reading. I like the facts at the back of the book about each type of fish inside and think that any child into fishing would probably be more interested in this book than my son was.
Amos & Boris by William Steig is a touching story about the power of an unlikely friendship and helping others. Amos is a mouse and sailor 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 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.
Ten Little Fish by Audrey and Bruce Wood . The book is a rhyming countdown story about 10 little fish and what happens to them one by one. The illustrations look like an animated movie, and the rhymes are well thought out. My one wish is that the numbers were shown as digits not simply words, so that younger children who can recognize the numbers in digit form but not yet by reading the word could more easily follow along. The ending made me giggle, and you’ll have to grab the book to find out why !This post contains affiliate links